Grief Tips 2017

February 2017
January 2017

 

Grief Tips 2016

December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016

 

Grief Tips 2015

December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015

Dear Donor Families,

Many of you have been actively participating in local events promoting organ and tissue donation.  Thank you!  You make a difference!  There are always opportunities to be involved and volunteer.  If you are aware of any events in your local area, please let us know.

Team Kentucky is currently raising funds for their participation in the 2016 National Transplant Games in Cleveland, Ohio.  The team has been given the opportunity to work at the Kentucky Speedway July 9th, 10th and 11th ushering fans in the Grandstand and Tower seats.  Team Kentucky needs your help!  Please consider volunteering for a shift.  Volunteer hours on Thursday are 4-11pm, Friday from 3:30-11pm & Saturday 2-11pm. If you would like to help, please contact me immediately and I will provide you with detailed information.

  • July 9,10, 11 Team KY Fundraiser & Joey Gase Racing/Donate Life car at The KY Speedway
  • July 25, Bowling Fundraiser for Team KY at Kenbowl Lanes, Louisville
  • August 15, Louisville Ambassador Training at 10am, Ambassador Meeting at 11am:  Contact Amber McGuire a.mcguire@kodaorgan.org.
  • August 18, Lexington Ambassador Meeting/Picnic: Contact Charlotte Wong c.wong@kodaorgan.org.
  • August 22, Trust for Life 5k in Junction City, KY
  • August 29, Donor Family Council Meeting
  • September 12, Legacy of Life 5k Run/Walk in Iroquois Park, Louisville

Be good to yourself & kind to others,

Gretchen Boje

Family Aftercare Coordinator

Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates

10160 Linn Station Rd.

Louisville, KY 40223

Toll free:  1-800-525-3456

Phone: (502) 379-6923

 

If you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.  The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

June, 2015 Grief Tips

Summer is here!  Warm weather, longer daylight hours, outdoor living and travel itineraries make the season appear to fly by too quickly.  Perhaps this time of year allows for exploration of new places or new hobbies.  Summer seems to get us “up and out” and motivates us to become more active.  Yet, those hot sticky days afford the opportunity to slow down a bit and savor the day.   Which speed you choose during this time of year, remember the benefits of greeting each day with gratitude and an open heart.

An open heart may prove difficult when mourning loss of a loved one.  Mourning is the outward expression of grief and is as unique as the loss itself.  As Dr. Alan Wolfelt so eloquently says in his book Loving from the Outside In. Mourning from the Inside Out, “The capacity to love requires the necessity to mourn.”  He also goes on to say that love and grief are two sides of the same coin.   One does not and cannot exist without the other.  Mourning, through time, brings realization that the person lost does still live inside you.

Dr.Wolfelt goes on to explain that you may feel a sense of disorientation from the ever-changing nature of the grief journey.  By trusting the process of grief and surrender to the mystery, you will discover that mourning, like love, is also greater than the sum of its parts.  Leaning into your grief and choosing expression rather than choosing to ignore thoughts and feelings will bring about transformation.  The personal experience of love and grief will create a changed person who has not only survived but has learned to thrive again in a new form.

Openness helps to unlock healing in grief.  Dr. Wolfelt’s book goes on to explain that just as a person opened their heart to once love, the heart must be open to mourn.  It may feel impossible; however, the inability to open the heart is what blocks authentic mourning and blocked mourning keeps you from walking out of darkness and into the light.

Self-care is one of the most profound ways to protect the heart while mourning the death of a loved one.  Eating well, exercising and appropriate rest is vital to the journey.  Consciously allow others to love and support you and accept their authentic warmth at a time when you need them most.

Summer is a wonderful opportunity to choose your pace, surround yourself with love and support and begin to open your heart.  No matter how overwhelmed by grief you may feel, hope will come again and the light will find its way back into your heart.

“The essence of finding meaning in the future is not to forget my past, as I have been told, but instead to embrace my past.  For it is listening to the music of the past that I can sing in the present and dance into the future.” Dr. Alan Wolfelt, PH.D.

May 2015

Dear Donor Families,

The days are getting longer and schedules are being filled with travel plans and the many activities summer brings.  Before reading this month’s Grief Tips, please take a moment to view the list of coming events listed below and see the attached flyers for additional information.  There are many activities on the horizon and I want each of you to be informed.  Our participation will not only honor those who have given the gift of life to others but will also raise awareness for those who are waiting for a life-saving transplant.

  • June 11, Golf Tournament for Team KY at Quail Run in Louisville
  • June 20, Louisville Ambassador Training: Contact Amber McGuire a.mcguire@kodaorgan.org.
  • July 10, Joey Gase Racing/Donate Life car at The KY Speedway
  • July 25, Bowling Fundraiser for Team KY at Kenbowl Lanes, Louisville
  • August 18, Lexington Ambassador Meeting/Picnic: Contact Charlotte Wong c.wong@kodaorgan.org.
  • August 22, Trust for Life 5k in Junction City, KY: see their Facebook page for details
  • August 29, Donor Family Council Meeting
  • September 12, Legacy of Life 5k Run/Walk in Iroquois Park, Louisville

Be good to yourself & kind to others,

Gretchen Boje

If you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.  The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

May, 2015 Grief Tips

The month of May is drawing to a close.  Do you feel worn out?  Are you emotionally spent?  You are not alone.  The month of May is full of milestones, celebrations and holidays that may be reminders of what used to be.  

Mother’s Day may bring sorrowful tears to those who are no longer able to embrace their parent or for the mother whose child has been taken from this Earth, the searing pain is unspeakable.  

With every wedding invitation that comes in the mail, some are reminded of an anniversary that used to be celebrated and the void a spouse has left in your heart.  The grieving father is painfully aware that he will never walk his daughter down the aisle.  A bride or groom may stare at an empty seat with a gently placed rose signifying their family member who is not there to witness their vows.

The numerous pictures that flood social media of teenagers dressed for Senior Prom, graduation ceremonies and celebrations are almost unbearable for those who will never have the opportunity to experience such an occasion.  Some now have only the memory of those very times past to cling on to.  You may be left feeling alienated.

As the month concludes with the nation’s observance of Memorial Day, it can all be too much for those who are grieving.  At every turn there is some kind of reminder of one’s loss.  It feels as if you are being consumed.  The world is crashing into your private journey, or forcing you to expose your pain and it doesn’t seem fair.  It isn’t fair.  Sadness bubbles to the surface.  Anger, resentment, fear and jealousy may emerge only to be followed by feelings of guilt for not feeling very celebratory for others.  

When it all seems too much, the next thought is often how to respond.  Do I forge ahead? Do I attend every special occasion?  Do I deny my feelings?  Do I retreat?  They are all appropriate questions as well as appropriate answers.  No one knows your journey nor shares your unique path but you.  What may be appropriate and work for you on one particular day may not be the next time.  

Currently, I am reading a wonderful book, Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello by Alla Renee Bozarth, Ph.D.  Within her book she writes that trusting in oneself is essential to the art of grieving and living.  She says, “Trust your feelings.  Own your feelings; recognize them as your own.  Feel your feelings.  They won’t destroy you, because you can learn to express them safely and constructively with the reassuring help of others. “

Caring for self is necessary for healing.  In coping with loss, make your life an environment conducive for healing.  Surround yourself with those people and objects that bring you peace.  The proper persons and environments will enhance your ability to listen to your inner voice.  You will become more aware of when to join in a celebration or special occasion and when to choose to have a quiet evening.  And, those who know you and love you will support your decision to change your mind mid-course.  

There are some final thoughts in the book that I would like to share.  Through grieving, we learn new value for the gift of life.  Time, presence, life itself becomes more evident.  We better understand life as a true gift.  Gifts are to be valued, treasured, protected and shared.  We are still here.  We are living beings meant to share with others.  We are the gift!  When you are able to recall the past, remember it and embrace it. You will then greet those memories with a renewed gratitude.  If you try to avoid a memory, you will deny yourself its beautiful significance.  When we open our hearts to gratitude, we grieve well and transform our pain and loneliness outwardly into love toward others.  Then grace appears and is extended to those who may need it most, which makes us a blessing to our family and friends.  

April 2015

Dear Donor Families,

Today is the final day of National Donate Life Month and what a month it has been!  Each day in April has been full of celebration, education, honor and reflection.  Thank you to each donor family who has shared their story.  Thank you to every transplant recipient who lives each day by honoring the one who gave them a second chance at life.  Thank you to the schools, hospitals and circuit clerk offices that have participated in spreading awareness about organ and tissue donation.  From media coverage, 5k races, fashion shows, photo contests, to Donate Life baked treats from local bakeries…each effort has made a lasting and positive impact for giving hope to those on the waiting list.  Each small ripple results in a powerful wave!  Thank you all!

If you want to get involved or wish to find out more about our local Ambassador Program, there are two training sessions coming up in May.  Should you be interested in signing up, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the correct person in our education department.  Training for the Louisville and western Kentucky area will be on Saturday, May 16th at 10am in the Louisville KODA office.  The training session for the central Kentucky region will be on Tuesday, May 19th at 4:30pm in Lexington at the Word of Hope Lutheran Church.  Every effort and every hour of time is an investment for the future.  You have the power to make a difference!

Be good to yourself & kind to others,

Gretchen Boje

If you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.  The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

April, 2015 Grief Tips

Last month we discussed the importance of being an active participant in your grief and concluded that participation allows life to move forward.  We are alive, yet forever changed.  The relationship we have with our loved one is still there; however, it is now a relationship of memory. 

This acknowledgment may leave us feeling bewildered and confused of our own identity.  In the book, Caring for Donor Families Before, During and After, by Raelynn Maloney, Ph.D. and Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D. they discuss that when someone with whom we have had a relationship with dies, our self-identity naturally changes.  We change the way we define ourselves and so does our society.  

Many often comment that they find it hard to engage in social gatherings because they “don’t fit in” or “don’t know who they are anymore.”  Facing a new identity takes courage. 

The book goes on to explain that death often requires family members to take on new roles.  Tasks that may have been done by our loved one still have to be done, such as cooking or taking out the trash.  We who mourn confront our new identities every time we attempt a new task that was previously done by our loved one.  This can be daunting work and may leave us feeling very drained.  This may lead to feelings of helplessness, fear or frustration.

Most importantly, the authors go on to explain that many donor families discover as we work on this need or task, we ultimately discover some positive aspects of our changed self-identities.  A renewed confidence may emerge.  Through the donation experience, we often find a more caring, kind and sensitive part of ourselves.  We may develop an assertive part of our identities that empower us to go on living even though we continue to feel a sense of loss.  

As we continue to move forward in our grief journey remember:

Moving on does not mean…

  • you forget the person.
  • you never feel the pain of your loss.
  • you believe that life is fair.

Moving on DOES mean…

  • you treasure your best memories of the person who has died.
  • you can realistically accept the different aspects of your loss & forgive others.
  • you can form new relationships or try new things.
  • you understand that both joy and loss are a part of life.  
March 2015

Dear Donor Families,

The old saying one learned in childhood about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb has proven true, unless one counts March Madness in the Bluegrass!

April will arrive this week and it is a very busy time, as April is national Donate Life month.  There are many events throughout the area to honor donors and raise awareness about organ and tissue donation.  These are some of the events taking place next month:

  • April 1st:   the Donate Life specialty license plate will be available!
  • April 1st:  Flag raising ceremony and punch reception at UK Hospital.
  • April 2nd:  Donate Life celebration honoring donor families and recipients at Jewish Hospital, Louisville.
  • April 17th:  National Blue and Green Day.  Wear your donate life colors and be sure to share photos on social media to spread awareness.
  • April 23rd: Franklin Co. Circuit Court Clerks’ 5k Run/walk
  • April 25th: The Alexandra Hamilton 5K Run/Walk in Whitley County.

If you have questions or desire additional information regarding any events, please contact me at any time.

Be good to yourself & kind to others,

Gretchen Boje

If you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.  The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

March 2015 Grief Tips

Many are currently immersed in the thrill of March Madness.  During these games, the importance of good sportsmanship, skilled coaching and execution under pressure become evident.  The game is not won by sitting on the bench or by watching from the comfort of a recliner.  One must be an active participant in the game.

The same principle applies to grief.  In the book Eight Critical Questions for Mourners, by Alan Wolfelt, PhD. the question is asked, “Will I be a passive witness to my grief or will I be an active participant?”  This question of discernment has the power to shift the entire nature of the grief journey.  It may lift one to a place of having the capacity to integrate grief and discover renewed meaning and purpose.  

Dr. Wolfelt further explains that when one a person sets their intention to heal, they make a true commitment to positively influence the course of their journey.  A person chooses between being a passive witness or active participant in their grief.  To integrate loss into one’s life, there must be a willingness to learn the mystery of the grief journey.  It can’t be fixed or resolved; it can only be soothed and reconciled through actively experiencing the multitude of thoughts and feelings that unfold in the face of loss.  

Experiencing and facing the presence of one’s pain shows the commitment to paying attention to anguish in ways that allow a person to breathe life into their soul again.  The alternative would be to shut down, be passive and avoid or deny the pain.  By facing the pain, one is actively participating in moving TOWARD grief and not away from it.  

Remember, society will often encourage others to prematurely move away from and be a passive witness to grief.  YOU must continually remind yourself that leaning toward grief and being an active participant will allow for and encourage healing.  Reach out for support from those around you who are true empathetic helpers.  They will demonstrate a willingness to be taught by you and recognize that you are the expert of your experience, not them.  They too will believe in your capacity to heal.  

Being an active participant in grief is a life-enhancing choice and one that brings the promise of hope, grace and peace.

February 2015

Dear Donor Families,

I hope this finds you staying warm.  Winter has certainly proven to be a challenge this year.  Some of you have enjoyed the beauty of the snow, while others have been limited by the cold temperatures or the ability to travel on icy roads.

The shorter days that Winter affords, along with the chilling winds and gray skies make for difficult months emotionally.  In my own life, I tend to sit still more, have less motivation and often am more reflective.  My hands long to be in the dirt, helping to bring new life in my gardens.

When one experiences loss, each moment may feel like a Winter’s day. Upon reading the two most recent entries from the daily meditation book, Healing after Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman, I thought that some thoughts from those entries may be beneficial for us during the depths of Winter.  I felt it important to include both entries, as the second one fans the flame of hope that we all need on our path.

Be good to yourself & kind to others,

Gretchen Boje

If you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.  The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

We will never share your email; and if you want to be removed at any time, just reply “REMOVE”.

Entry 1:

“We are called to live with integrity, to express the truth as we perceive it, and to trust God’s ability to use what we offer.” – Elizabeth J. Canham

“And if what we have to offer, right now, is only our pain?  Well, then, let us offer that.  If pain and grief are our deepest reality, then we must acknowledge that reality.  If we try to gloss over it, perpetually looking the other way, we will fool no one, especially ourselves.  Like a wound that is not exposed to air and healing light, this wound will take longer to heal and will cost us more in the long run.  

This doesn’t mean that we need to spend every moment of every day wallowing in grief-though there will be times when that pretty well describes the way we feel.  We will want, both for our own sake and for the sake of those around us, to put a cap on our grief for a while and relate to the world in a more casual way.

When grief is fresh and overwhelming, THAT is the truth as we perceive it, and to act out of that is not only our own necessity, but also a witness to those around us that sadness is honorable and to be trusted.  The journey through grief has a varied landscape but no permanent detours.”

Entry 2:

“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.  Nourish it then that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds.” – Black Elk

“What is the glimmer of hope that insists on being present to us in our darkness?  Is it the lingering spirit of our loved one saying, ‘I’m alright, don’t worry?’  Is it our own intuition that there is more to life- and death- than we can possibly understand; that death is not a stopping place but a gate to pass through?

Or is it the unquenchable nature of life, bubbling up, blossoming, singing; even in dark hours?

A friend whose son had died tells me of how, in a woodsy glade, a bird previously unknown to that region perched on a high limb in a shaft of light, and sang…and sang.  She said that while she continued to have times of great loneliness, never again did she question her son’s continuing love and presence, or that ultimately she would be reunited with him.  May I now see the sacred tree, and hear the sound of singing birds.”

January 2015

Dear Donor Families,

First of all, if you are new to this list, we welcome you. While we are sad about the events that brought us together, we are pleased to have you join us.  We trust you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone.

The purpose of this group is to share grief tips, share information and stories, etc.  And to keep you informed of ‘upcoming’ events for Donor Families.

We will never share your email; and if you want to be removed at any time, just reply “REMOVE”.

Perhaps you have already noticed a new name at the bottom of this email.  Some may already know me from supporting your family during your difficult time in the hospital.  My name is Gretchen Boje and I have returned to serve as the new Family Aftercare Coordinator, following our sweet Sandy Hickey’s retirement.   I formerly was a Family Support Liaison and took some time to heal after my husband’s untimely death.  I know I have big shoes to fill, as Sandy will be greatly missed.  Thanks to many of you for already making me feel so welcome!  I look forward to learning more about your personal stories and unique journeys.  Please feel free to contact me at any time.

This month, I thought it would be fitting to share a grief tip relating to the power of your story.

GRIEF TIP FOR TODAY: BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF STORY         Healing Your Traumatized Heart, Alan Wolfelt

  • Acknowledging a death is a painful, ongoing task that we accomplish in doses, over time.  A vital part of healing in grief is often “telling the story” over and over again.  For trauma survivors, the shock of the death may delay your need to talk about it for months, even years.
  • In cases of sudden and violent death, you may feel compelled to think and talk about the circumstances of the death itself.  This is normal and necessary.  Your mind returns to the moment of the death in an effort to fathom that which is unfathomable.  Telling the story is a natural way of trying to dissipate the psychic energy created by the trauma and trying to integrate the reality of what has happened.
  • What if you don’t want to talk about it?  It’s OK to respect this feeling for weeks or months, but soon you’ll need to start talking about it.  Keeping your thoughts and feelings about the death inside you only makes them more powerful.  Giving them voice allows you some control over them.  Trust that you will “tell your story” when you are ready.
  • Over time, your grief story will likely evolve from one dominated by the death itself to one dominated by loving memories of the person who died.  This is a natural progression and a sign that you are healing.
  • Find people who are willing to listen to you tell your story, over and over again if necessary, without judgment.  These are often ‘fellow strugglers’ who have had similar losses.  But remember that not everyone will be able to be a compassionate listener.  Your story is a difficult one to hear.  Seek out listeners who can be present to your pain.
  • Today, discuss the story of the death with someone else who loved the person who died.  This person may also be struggling with painful questions and fears regarding the circumstances of the death.  Listen to and support each other.

Warm regards,

Gretchen Boje

 

Grief Tips 2013

December 2013

ANTICIPATE HOLIDAY GRIEF

Anticipatory grief – a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event occurs – is a hard journey. Holidays make it even harder. At a time when you’re supposed to feel happy and joyful, you feel sad and anxious. You’re on pins and needles and wonder what will happen next.

Remember, your grief stems from love, and you may find comfort in that. Holidays don’t erase your reasons for feeling sad and lonely, according to the National Mental Health Association, and “there is room for these feelings to be present.” So accept your feelings and, if you feel like crying, go ahead and do it.

Crying will help you to feel better. Here are some other ways you can help yourself.

BE REALISTIC. You don’t have to create a “perfect” holiday. Do you really need to knit sweaters for everyone? No. Do you really need to serve a six course meal? No. What you need to do is set realistic goals, get organized, and pace yourself. Rather than focusing on one day, the National Mental Health Association recommends focusing on “a season of holiday sentiment.”

ASK FOR HELP. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Family members and friends will be glad to help with planning, decorating, and cooking. One family member could bring a traditional dish, such as pumpkin pie. Another family member could provide linens and launder them afterwards. Your request for help makes others feel needed.

BUDGET. Finances can cause stress at any time, but they cause lots of stress during the holidays. Set a budget for gifts, decorations, and entertaining. Staying within your budget will make you feel better about the holidays and yourself. Your gifts don’t have to be new. Holidays are a perfect time to pass along family possessions – a flower vase, historic photo, or beloved book. Stick a short note about the item in with your gift.

EAT RIGHT. Because nutrition affects brain chemistry, you need to eat balanced meals during the holidays. Yummy as they look, pass up the candy and cookies that come your way. Choose lots of fruits and veggies from the buffet table and one dessert. Keeping a supply of healthy snacks on hand will also help you to eat right.

DRINK MODERATELY. Alcohol makes the holiday blues worse, according to the National Mental Health Association. Too much alcohol can cause you to say things you’ll regret later. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation or skip it all together. Drink sparkling cider, non-alcoholic punch, or flavored water instead of alcohol.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP. You’ve probably thinking, “Yeah, right.” But you need sleep to survive the holidays. Getting enough sleep is hard to do with so many holiday events going on. However, you may be selective about what you attend, leave early, and get a good night’s sleep. Balance a late night with a short nap the next day.

LIGHT YOUR WAY. Vanderbilt University wellness experts say more people get depressed during the holidays than at any other time. Some of these people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you live in a cold climate and the days are short you may wish to be evaluated for SAD. Phototherapy (intense lighting) is usually recommended for those with SAD. Even if you don’ have SAD well lit rooms will lift your spirits.

EXERCISE. Daily physical activity is a proven way to cope with stress. Walk around town or the local mall and look at holiday decorations. Play catch with your kids or grandkids. Bundle up and go cross country skiing. A half hour of physical activity per day helps to chase the blues away.

BE CONCILATORY. According to www.MayoClinic.com family tensions may flare during the holidays if members are “thrust together for several days.” Holidays aren’t the time to settle family disputes; they’re a time for conciliatory and kind behavior. Discuss family grievances at a later date.

HELP OTHERS. Holidays are associated with families and togetherness according to Jill RachBeisel, MD, Director of Community Psychiatry at the University of Maryland. But, due to the divorce rate and fragmented families, many don’t have this kind of holiday experience. Still, you may connect with a substitute family by volunteering at a senior center, reading to shut-ins, or tutoring children.

MAKE NEW MEMORIES. The memories you make during this holiday season may comfort you in the future. Take digital photos of holiday events and put them on a CD. Send copies of the CD to all family members. Every family has stories to tell and you may create new memories by tape recording some of these stories. You may also videotape holiday events.

SAVOR THE MOMENT. Though you are sorrowful, you’re alive, able to be with those you love and care about. Surround yourself with life: family members, dear friends, colorful flowers, a tail-wagging dog, and hobbies that make you happy. For every moment of life – even the sorrowful ones – is a miracle.

 

There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

                                                                                                                                Washington Irving

 

November 2013

Don’t be Caught Off Guard By “GRIEFBURSTS”

  •  Sometimes heightened periods of sadness may overwhelm you. These times can seem to come out of nowhere and can be frightening and painful.
  • Even long after the death, something as simple as a sound, a smell or a phrase can bring on a “griefburst.” You may see someone in a crowd who resembles the person who died. You may come across an old jacket or a piece of sports equipment that belonged to the person who died. You may smell a certain food or cologne that reminds you of the person who died. These experiences tend to trigger sudden unexpected and powerful waves of emotion.
  • Allow yourself to experience greifbursts without shame or self-judgment, no matter where and when they occur. If you would feel more comfortable, retreat to somewhere private when these strong feelings surface.
  • Create an action plan for your next griefburst. For example, you might plan to drop whatever you are doing and go for a walk or record your thoughts in a journal.
  • I often think that griefbursts are the way the person who has died says to you, “Don’t forget me. Please don’t forget me.”

Death of a Child: What’s it like at 10 years?

Editor’s note: Author Rich Edler, 58, past President of The Compassionate Friend (TCF) National Board, author of Into the Valley and Out Again, and treasured friend to many in TCF’s extended family; died suddenly and unexpectedly on February 16, 2002. He had completed this article for We Need Not Walk Alone, (Spring 2002) TCF’s national magazine, just over a month earlier.

 

…… Ten years? Sometime it seems like yesterday. Sometimes it seems like it never happened. Most of the time, it is somewhere in between. It has been 10 years today since Mark died. When I wrote Into the Valley and Out Again, I chronicled first one day, then one week, then the first month, and year.

Now it is 10. Here are my thoughts. The hurt never goes away. We never forget. We never get over it. We don’t want to. We hurt so much because we loved so much. But the focus on death and the event fades, and the warmth of good memories replaces it. Oh, we can still go back there in an instant. Back to the call, the moment, the good-bye. Back to the night that will forever separate our life between `”before” and “after”. But we now go back less and less. Time helps a lot.

I have fewer friends. Better friends, mind you, but fewer. I am out of the circle now. My Rolodex is cold. My networking, which used to be razor sharp, has atrophied. My power lunches have become tuna fish sandwiches. But the amazing thing is how much I don’t care. I miss some special people, so I go out of my way to stay in touch, and that is enough.

I have new and different priorities. I move through life a little slower, a little more tuned to life around me, and to life gone too soon. I brake for sunsets. I hurt for the people who share this walk with me. Since Mark died, hundreds, and then thousands of children have died. I feel for them and for their families in a way I could never have understood before. I value people more than things, moments more than milestones, and I no longer equate what I do with who I am.

I am not having the life I expected to have. I recall an old saying, “Man plans…God laughs.” Dennis Prager, an author and Los Angeles radio talk-show host, said that unhappiness equals image minus reality. What he meant is that you are unhappy when your image of where you should be is dramatically different from where you really are.

When a child dies, the reality of the life we are going to have is altered forever. I am no longer going to be Mark’s dad. I am no longer going to join him at UCLA football games. I am no longer going to be a grandfather to the children he will never have. If that gap between image and reality is a recipe for unhappiness, well, then the reverse is also true. If you “solve” the equation of happiness, happiness equals image matched closely with reality. So I have had to change my image to match the new reality.

I like my new life better. This makes me feel guilty because I would trade my life in an instant if I could have Mark back. But I really do like the person I have become since Mark died. I don’t even know that person from 10 years ago. Back then, my life purpose was to run a large advertising agency. Today, it is to give back to gratitude for the joy of the life I have been given. I want to make Mark proud. I want to be a blessing to others. And I want to enjoy the journey too. I still have a grief that goes unspoken. Who will listen at 10 years? Yes I still miss Mark. But I miss him quietly and silently. I grieve for his loss; for the loss of the person he would have become (he would be 28 now, but instead is forever 18); and also for the loss of the life I would be having if he were here.

I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have a surviving son who has given me more joy than I could imagine any parent having…and now a beautiful daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. Gratitude is one of the most helpful and healing things you can do on your grief journey. And with gratitude come thanks. So in gratitude, Kitty and I made a list this week of the people who where there for us when we needed them most. These are the people who dropped everything in their lives on a moment’s phone call, and rushed to our side. These are the people with whom we are joined forever, and who, no matter how far they drift, or what unimportant spats we might have, will always have a special place in our heart. You make your own list. Then find those people wherever they are, and say thank you.

I choose joy over sadness. If there is one overriding thought in these years, including 10 TCF conferences in a row, it is simply this: Grief is inevitable; misery is optional. It does no good to sit in a hole. It does no good for the loss of one to lead to the loss of two.

What does do good is doing good. To decide to lead the second part of your life differently and better than you would have before…in your child’s name. When we do that…when we do one small act of kindness we never would have done before…when we reach out to other bereaved parents because we can, and because we have been there…then the world is changed in some small way for the better, and then the actions we take become a living tribute to our child’s life. And then that child is never entirely gone.

And that, my fellow compassionate friends, is how it looks at 10 years for me

October 2013

Grief Tip: Simplify Your Life  Healing Your Grieving Soul,  Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.

 

  •  Many of us today are taking stock of what’s really important in our lives and trying to discard the rest.
  • During grief we are often overwhelmed by all the tasks and commitments we have.
  • If you can rid yourself of some of those extraneous burdens, you’ll have more time for mourning and healing.
  • What is it that is overburdening  you right now?  Have your name taken off junk mail lists, ignore  your dirty house, stop attending any optional meetings you don’t look forward to.
  • Cancel your newspaper subscriptions if you are depressed by what you read.  (I only take the Sunday paper for coupons).
  • Quit watching TV news for a while.
  • In our hectic lives, the phone is both a can’t-live-without-it convenience and an annoying interruption.  Give yourself permission to turn it off for time periods.
  • Sometimes we use the phone when we should be talking face-to-face.  Instead of calling someone, drop by and visit.
  • Make a list of 5 ways you can simplify your life.  Then start checking them off one at a time.

September 2013

GRIEF TIP: Gentle Reminders

from book   The Hollowed Heart  by Dunn and Buehler

  • Be Be sure that  you are attending to your life with loving care and not just falling backward into ambivalence.
  • There is a fine line between compassion toward self and self-pity.  You will know you have crossed that line if you are isolating yourself from others in any way.
  • Set meaningful and achievable goals for yourself.  Consider both short-term and long-term targets you want to reach.  Then make a plan for moving toward those goals.
  •   Continue to seek support that will both encourage you and honor your new growth.
  • Only be around the people who lift you up; who provide unconditional love; and who celebrate the small and large steps you are taking.
  • Recognize in yourself the many ways in which you are no longer where you were early in bereavement.  Give  yourself credit for each step in your healing.
  • Be gentle with yourself always and in all ways.
  • Decide that for the rest of your life you will look upon  yourself with softer eyes, eyes of love and compassion.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I’M GETTING BETTER?

One of the ways to think about your grief is to look at some of the markers that indicate you are moving forward. Some examples are below. This list is entitled,

“I Know I’m Moving on a bit When…….”

• I want to do more with my life than “just survive”.

• I can laugh without feeling guilty.

• I’m not afraid anymore of losing the memory of my loved one.

o I know it will always be with me

• I come to realize that doing little things for myself is OK

• I’m not as much afraid of the future.

• I don’t find myself “searching” for my loved one as much as before.

• I’m not as sad or depressed as I used to be.

• I feel I don’t have to do a ritual.

• I can get through the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries a little easier.

• I can reach out to help other people.

• I can engage in some of the activities I had given up after the death.

• It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.

• I can talk to others about him/her without getting upset.

• I can see the memory of my loved one as “less saintly” i.e. not perfect.

• The emotional roller coaster ride isn’t as bad as it used to be.

• Sometimes a whole day has slipped by without my feeling overwhelmed.

• I now know both truths:

o I am moving on with my life, BUT

o I will never forget and moving on does not mean that I love him/her any less.

• I can experience the reminders as more positive than negative.

• I can look back and see my progress.

• I realize that it really happened and that my life has forever changed.

• When another loss occurs I now understand more the effect it has on me (and others).

• I realize that I will always carry my loved one in my heart and that I am a better person for having had this person in my life for however long or short it was.

• And I’ve come to realize that some things in life – just don’t matter.

August 2013

Grief Tips for August

 GRIEF TIP: FORGIVE

• Music, perhaps more than any other external experience, has the capacity to bring you home to yourself and to restore your broken heart. Beautiful music can communicate to you on many different levels. Music can take you to your favorite place or to another world.

• Music transforms you, taking you to a “safe place” in your soul, helping you feel that you and the world around you are filled with grace and peace. Music can uplift your mood, soothe you when you are agitated, and open you to harmony, beauty, love, and generosity.

• Beautiful music that nurtures your being is by its very nature healing. It restores and relaxes you in ways beyond words. Music allows you to access spirit through sound. Music an infuse your body, mind, and spirit; and bring an inner calmness that comforts your grief-filled nerves. Music encourages you to express your grief from the inside to mourning on the outside. Music is an invitation to feel whatever you feel – sometimes even paradoxical emotions, such as happiness and sadness at once.

• Commit yourself to bring music into your daily life and open yourself to the spiritual nurturing it brings.

July 2013

Grief Tips for July

GRIEF TIP: FORGIVE

by: Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Grieving Soul

• You may be harboring some spiteful feelings about the death of someone loved. Perhaps you are angry at a medical caregiver. Maybe you are upset at friends and family who haven’t been there for you in your time of need. Maybe you are mad at the person who died.

• Forgiveness is an act of surrender. If you surrender your resentment, you are freeing yourself of a very heavy load. You are surrendering your human feelings of judgment to the only ONE who is truly in a position to judge. Don’t go to your own grave angry.

• Forgive. Write letters of forgiveness if this will help you unburden yourself, even if you never send the letters.

• And while you are at it, don’t forget to forgive yourself. Self-recrimination is negative energy. If you did something wrong, acknowledge, apologize and forgive.

• This Idea calls to mind this poem by Wm. Ward, an American pastor and teacher:

o Before you speak, listen.

o Before you write, think.

o Before you spend, earn.

o Before you invest, investigate.

o Before you criticize, wait.

o Before you pray, forgive.

o Before you quit, try.

o Before you retire, save.

o Before you die, give.

• Today, call or stop by to visit someone you’ve been holding a grudge against. Tell this person you have missed his/her company and would like to catch up.

June 2013

Grief Tips for June

GRIEF TIP: REMINDERS

by: Baugher/Calija, A Guide for the Bereaved Soul

• It will seem that everywhere you look there are things that suddenly bring back memories of your loved one. Some are painful; some bring a smile.

Some examples are:

  • Anniversary, birthday, holidays
  • Another death
  •  Certain people
  • Clothing
  • Items that come in the mail
  • Pictures, movies
  • Smells, foods (grocery store isle)
  • Songs
  • Special places
  • Words & phrases

Some of these will surprise you

  • Tears may come to your eyes
  • You may even cry at something that may seem “insignificant.”
  • Most bereaved people report a type of “searching” behavior in which they find themselves looking for their loved one.
  • Sports events, school events, graduation, plays
  • Dreams

Suggestions:

Your mind has a multitude of memories of your loved one that will be stimulated by reminders in the course of daily activities. You will find reminders comforting, some neutral, and some very painful. As each painful reminder is confronted, the intensity of the grief reaction tends to diminish.

However, in the early part of the grief process some of the reminders will feel overwhelming and the intensity of the reactions will not decrease until several more exposures to the same reminders.

Because of intense pain associated with death, there is a natural tendency to avoid reminders. This is our mind’s way of protecting itself from additional pain. Keep in mind that an effective way to cope with grief is to try to balance this natural protective response with the necessary and healthy confrontation of reminders.

Although confronting painful reminders is difficult, doing so appears to be one of the most constructive ways to work through the grief process.

The continued avoidance of reminders such as places, situations, and people may inhibit the resolution of grief. However, take your time and decide when it is the right time for you to confront a painful reminder. Continue to comfort yourself with positive memories.

The searching behavior mentioned earlier continues for many people for a long period of time. Months, even years after the death you may think to yourself, “I’ve got to call him about that.” Or you may see someone that resembles your loved one walking down the street and feel your heart skip a beat because, for a minute, you thought it was really him or her. Keep in mind that these are normal reactions in the grief process.

As time goes by you may begin to see some of the reminders a way of telling you that your loved one has lived a life and, though physically absent, this special person continues to exist in your memory and the memory of others.

In order to gain some perspective on life, some bereaved people begin to keep a diary. In it you can note the reminders, their effect, and changes as time passes. Although it may be painful to do this, most people report that later they realize it was well worth it since it aided them in understanding their grief process.

May 2013

Grief Tips for May

by: Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Grieving Heart

• Gardening represents growth, beauty and the natural cycles of life and death.

• Indoors or out, gardening is often healing for mourners.

• If you already garden, allocate some extra time for digging in the dirt this season.

• Perhaps plan a new perennial bed of plant some bulbs.

• Non-gardeners might start with a container garden or an indoor plant.

• Visit a local nursery or arboretum and spend some time learning about what you see there.

GO TO A FARMERS MARKET –

• We tend not to eat well when we’re in mourning. This lack of good nutrition contributes to our feelings of listlessness and fatigue.

• Vegetables and fruits have amazing restorative powers.

• Go to your local farmer’s market and buy whatever is in season. Prepare it simply and quickly, while it’s still fresh.

• Off season, visit the produce department of your area’s best grocery store (or natural food store). Select an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Eat five servings of fresh vegetables and three of fresh fruit today. Make a huge salad or a fruit smoothie in your blender.

It’s springtime, enjoy the great outdoors.

April 2013

Grief Tips for April

Be aware that your grief affects your body, heart, social self and spirit

by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Center for Loss, Ft. Collins, CO

  • Grief is physically demanding. The body responds to the stress of the encounter and the immune system can weaken. You may be more susceptible to illness and physical discomforts. You may also feel lethargic or highly fatigued.
  • The emotional toll of grief is complex and painful. We often feel many different feelings, and those feelings can shift and blur over time.
  • Bereavement naturally results in social discomfort. Friends and family often withdraw from mourners, leaving us isolated and unsupported.
  • We often ask ourselves, “Why go on living?” “Will my life ever have meaning again?” “Where is God in all this?”
  • Spiritual questions such as these are natural and necessary but also draining.
  • Good self-care is nurturing and necessary for mourners, yet it’s something many of us completely overlook.
  • Try very hard to eat well and get adequate rest.
  • Exercise not only provides you with more energy, it can give you focused thinking time.
  • Take a 20 minute walk every day. But don’t over-exercise, because your body needs extra rest, as well.
  • Are you taking a multi-vitamin? If not, now is a good time to start.
  • No doubt you are physically impacted by your grief. Make an appointment to see a doctor this week. Sometimes it’s comforting to receive a clean bill of health.
  • Now more than ever, you need to allow time for you.
March 2013

Grief Tips for March

The Sibling Experience – by Kelsey Herrmann, a Project Grace participant, for the Connections Newsletter from the Family Partners Program, an Initiative of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Palliative Care Program

Story by: Catherine Stern

In my experience I have found that the loss of a sibling, especially at a young age, is one of the single most, if not the biggest, deciding factors in my personality and my approach to the world. I am not an expert and I certainly am not an authority on sibling loss. I can’t relate to every individual who has lost a sibling, just like I can’t relate to every person with brown hair or who was raised by a single parent or who had to suffer middle school with braces, but I do have something to say – and maybe it will help or maybe not, but either way you will hear me and I will get to tell you about how I miss my brother. I have found that the loss of a sibling is not about your age, gender, character, race, whatever; it is all about your NEW status in your family. I was one of two and now I am one. I was a team and now I am alone. I hate it. I am sure it is the same with whatever the “new” happens to be.

Like me, maybe now you’re the only one, or maybe now you’re the youngest; now you’re the oldest, now you’re the only girl, now you’re the only boy, now there are only two or three or four or whatever number is missing one. Maybe they were your twin or they were your favorite. Maybe they were your least favorite but you miss them anyway. Maybe it was sudden or maybe it was long and consuming. Whatever the new is, it is terrible. My biggest hang-up is not solely missing Pat, my brother, but that now I am the only one. I got left behind. We were a team, not neat or efficient but perfect. One could not be whole without the other. And now I am alone; incomplete, unsure, and uncomfortable.

I have to say for the record that becoming an only child is excruciating. Who knew that the playful banter between siblings would be the hardest thing to witness? Loving families are my demise: seeing the loving pride between siblings can cause such pain, all-consuming and unrelenting. And siblings are EVERYWHERE. People always talk about their siblings. Most families have more than one child, and so most people have a sibling of some sort. It is an easy way to connect instantly with another person in conversation; it is such a safe and easy topic, so it is one of the go-to ones. It kills me every time. I always freeze up. One word “brother” and I am reeling; even “sister” sends me down the rabbit hole and I never even had a sister. It is the bond, the sharing, the connection down to the DNA level that dictates your life even when you don’t realize it. I didn’t see it then, not really, but it is all I see now. It doesn’t matter now that sometimes I wanted to kill him, that sometimes, well most of the time, he was the most annoying person on the planet. I miss him; I wish he could annoy me again because he was a pro. TV, books, movies, random loud overheard conversations in restaurants, annoying kids running around, exasperated sighs from parents: it is all around you all the time and no one picks up on how much it hurts. My awareness is so keen to sibling relationships now and I have to remind myself that most people don’t think about it; they take it for granted. Not me. Not those of us who have lost a sibling.

I was lucky that I got to spend 20 years with my brother; I know many people didn’t get that long. There was just the two of us and we were only two years apart, so we were close, even though I was younger and he was annoying. We had an established rapport, especially when dealing with my parents. Aside from my only-child hang-ups, I spend a lot of my time worrying about my parents. They are broken worse than I, if that is even possible. My brother had cancer so his death was drawn out, and often I think how I just had to watch my sibling die, and now I am watching my parents die. They fight it and work with it, but the grief is always there, just like for me. Even though my parents are doing ok now, they will never be the same and I will always worry that I am not enough to keep them afloat. We have been our little incomplete family for four years now; some days it feels brand new and smothering and some days it feels okay, but it doesn’t go away. Sometimes it is fresh and sometimes it feels like I have been living with it forever, but it is always there. I know children worry about their parents; it is the natural order of things if you had a good relationship, or any relationship, really, but a grieving parent is a monster that I was not taught how to deal with. I am making it up as I go, but mostly I find it is a lot of listening and a lot accepting that you are the, or one of the, connections to the missing one. I get a lot of gifts that my brother would have liked even though zombies aren’t my things and I actually don’t like really dark beer. But whatever it was made my mom or dad or aunt or uncle think of him and so they bought it and gave it to me because I have become part of him or the conduit to him. I have taken on parts of his personality and tastes he had that I thought were awful but I now have a fondness for. I sometimes have to remind myself that five years ago I hated this, but today I love it, whatever it is. It’s weird, but it helps me cope and it is some way to convince myself that I am helping my parents. Worrying is dreadful but I know my parents worry about me in return – and that is just another sign that we are still alive and we still care. Sometimes feeling something, even something uncomfortable, is better than the numbness that comes with grieving, at least for me.

I am lucky that the differences in grief that each of my family members live with have not caused any major strains on us as a unit. My mom wears it loud and proud most of the time and for that I admire her but it can also be intensely painful and draining to see it in her eyes all the time. But I understand that this is what she needs and how she needs to be. My dad is quiet about it. He talks about Pat and laughs and cries along with us but he wrestles with it mostly in himself. I am a mix between the two though on the introspective side. I am quiet and don’t wear my emotions for the world to see but sometimes the grief is too big to hide in my heart. Sometimes my mom nags me about getting a therapist and sometimes she just listens; sometimes I feel like I have to downplay or hide my grief so I don’t further my parents’ pain or burden them with mine. I know not to talk with my dad about my grief or the extent of my pain; it is just too much for him to bear. We can talk about Pat, but we can’t talk about grief. It is a dance. We get frustrated with each other and impatient with ourselves yet we know that survival for us all as individuals and as a family depends on being able to bend and sway and orbit each other to offer support or distraction when needed.

I wish I had some wisdom to share or a witty or profound sentence to end with but I just am not that eloquent. I could say you are not alone and it gets easier and both are true to some extent but they aren’t that helpful. I haven’t personally met anyone who has lost their only sibling, but I have met other people who understand at least a piece of my loss. The hole is there, never getting smaller – but some days it doesn’t feel like it will swallow me. What it really comes down to is everyone grieves differently, just like everyone lives differently. For those of us who have lost a sibling, I think the bottom line is that our siblings were here, and we need to hold onto that. They were here and they lived – whether it was two minutes or 20 years. Our relationships with them helped make us who we are and will continue to shape us, just by having been in our lives for the short time that they were. And that is good. I live with that knowledge. They are special not because they are gone but because they were your sibling. You are special because you were theirs. You are different now because you miss them and you will always miss them because they were here. They lived – now you go live, too, not for them, but for you.

February 2013

Grief Tips for February

By: Robert Baugher, Ph.D. / Marc Calija, How Do I Know When I’m Getting Better

One of the ways to think about your grief is to look at some of the markers that indicate you are moving forward. Some examples are below. The list is entitled,

“I Know I’m Moving on When”……………..

  •   I want to do more with my life than “just survive.”
  • I can laugh without feeling guilty.
  • I’m not afraid anymore of losing the memory of my loved one.
  • I know it will always be with me.
  • I come to realize that doing little things for myself is OK.
  • I’m not as much afraid of the future.
  • I don’t find myself “searching” for my loved one as much as before.
  • I’m not as sad or depressed as I used to be.
  • I feel I don’t ‘have’ to do a ritual.
  • I can get through the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries easier.
  • I can reach out to help other people.
  • I can engage in some of the activities I had given up after the death.
  • It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.
  • I can talk to others about my loved one without getting as upset.
  • I can see the memory of my loved one as “less saintly” i.e., not perfect.
  • The emotional roller coaster ride isn’t as bad as it used to be.
  • I can put away or give away some of my loved one’s belongings and feel OK about it.
  • Sometimes a whole day has slipped by without my feeling overwhelmed.
  • I now know both truths:

I am moving on with my life, BUT

I will never forget and moving on does not mean that I love him/her any less.

  • I can experience the reminders as more positive than negative.
  • I can look back and see my progress.
  • I realize that it really happened and that my life has forever changed.
  • The weekends aren’t so long.
  • When another loss occurs I now understand more the effect it has on me.
  • I realize that I will always carry my loved one in my heart and that I am a better person for having had this person in my life.
January 2013

Grief Tips for January

by: Alan Wolfelt, Center for Loss, 10 Self-Compassionate Principles

Though you should reach out to others as you journey through grief, you should not feel obligated to accept unhelpful responses you may receive from some folks. You are the one who is grieving, and you have certain “rights” no one should take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful response from hurtful ones:

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept our feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of rituals.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but most do not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you still have to be thankful for” – these are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

 

Grief Tips 2012

January 2012: Ignore Hurtful Advice

GRIEF TIP: IGNORE HURTFUL ADVICE

by: Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Grieving Heart

Sometimes well-meaning but misinformed friends will hurt you unknowingly with their words.

You may be told:

  • It’s time to get on with your life
  • Keep your chin up
  • This is a blessing
  • You still can have other children
  • You’re still y
    Tab content 1
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    Text hereoung, you can find another mate
  • Think of all you have to be thankful for
  • Now you have an angel in heaven
  • He/she is in a better place
  • Time heals all wounds
  • You’re so strong. You’ll get over it.
  • And the number # most often hurtful thing:  I know just how you feel
  • ………. And I’ll bet you can add some to these ………….

Don’t take this advice to heart.  Such clichés are often offered because people don’t know what else to say. The problem is, phrases like these diminish your unique and significant relationship with your loved one.

NOTE:  Commit this retort to memory and use it the next time someone tries to comfort you with clichés:

“I’m sure you are trying to be helpful, but I don’t find your words supportive because  _____”

 

February 2012: Believe in the Power of Story

GRIEF TIP FOR TODAY: BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF STORY
Healing Your Traumatized Heart, Alan Wolfelt

  • Acknowledging a death is a painful, ongoing task that we accomplish in doses, over time.  A vital part of healing in grief is often “telling the story” over and over again.  For trauma survivors, the shock of the death may delay your need to talk about it for months, even years.
  • In cases of sudden and violent death, you may feel compelled to think and talk about the circumstances of the death itself.  This is normal and necessary.  Your mind returns to the moment of the death in an effort to fathom that which is unfathomable.  Telling the story is a natural way of trying to dissipate the psychic energy created by the trauma and trying to integrate the reality of what has happened.
  • What if you don’t want to talk about it?  It’s OK to respect this feeling for weeks or months, but soon you’ll need to start talking about it.  Keeping your thoughts and feelings about the death inside you only makes them more powerful.  Giving them voice allows you some control over them.  Trust that you will “tell your story” when you are ready.
  • Over time, your grief story will likely evolve from one dominated by the death itself to one dominated by loving memories of the person who died.  This is a natural progression and a sign that you are healing.
  • Find people who are willing to listen to you tell your story, over and over again if necessary, without judgment.  These are often ‘fellow strugglers’ who have had similar losses.  But remember that not everyone will be able to be a compassionate listener.  Your story is a difficult one to hear.  Seek out listeners who can be present to your pain.
  • Today, discuss the story of the death with someone else who loved the person who died.  This person may also be struggling with painful questions and fears regarding the circumstances of the death.  Listen to and support each other.

March 2012: Believe in Your Capacity to Heal

Believe in Your Capacity to Heal
by: Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Grieving Soul

  •  All the veteran grievers I have ever had the privilege of meeting and learning from would want me to tell you this: You will survive.
  •  If your loss was recent, you may think you cannot get through this.  You can and you will.  It may be excruciatingly difficulty, yes, but over time and with the love and support of others, your grief will soften and you will find ways to be happy again.  There will come a day when the death is not the first thing  you think of when you wake up in the morning.
  • Many mourners also struggle with feeling they don’t want to survive.  Again, those who have gone before you want you to know that while this feeling is normal, it will pass.  One day in the not-too-distant future you will feel that life is worth living again.  For now, think of how important  you are to your children, your partner, your parents and siblings, your friends.
  • As you actively mourn, you may also choose not simply to survive, but to truly live again.  The remainder of your life can be full and rich and satisfying if you choose life over mere existence.
  • If you are feeling  you won’t make it through the next few weeks or months, talk to someone about your feelings of panic and despair.  The simple act of expressing these feelings may render them a little less powerful.  Remember – grief waits on welcome, not on time.

 

April 2012: Organize a Tree Planting

ORGANIZE A TREE PLANTING

Healing Your Traumatized Heart    by Alan Wolfelt, PhD

  •  Trees represent the beauty, vibrancy and continuity of life.
  • A specially planted and located tree can honor the person who died and serves as a perennial memorial.  This can be particularly helpful if there was no body recovered.  The tree is a symbolic, physical presence that helps represent the person who died.  When you visit the tree, it helps you remember the person who died and convert your grief into mourning.
  • You might write a short ceremony or poem for the tree planting. (Or ask a friend or family member to write one.)  Consider a personalized metal marker or sign, too.  NOTE: (I think I’ll just put the UK yard flag against ours.  Paul would approve.)
  • For a more private option, plant a tree in your own yard.  Consult your local nursery for an appropriate selection.  Flowering trees are especially beautiful in the spring.

May 2012: Get Away from it All

GET AWAY FROM IT ALL.

By: Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Traumatized Heart

  •  Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to reveal the texture of our lives.
  • New people and places help us see our lives from a new vantage point and can assist us in our search for meaning.
  • Often, getting away from it all means leaving civilization behind and retreating to nature.  But it can also mean temporarily abandoning your environment and spending time in one that’s altogether different.
  • Visit a foreign country.  Go backpacking in the wilderness.  A trip to the beach.  Or visit another city/county nearby.
  • Plan a trip to somewhere far away.  Ask a friend to travel with you.  Just don’t do this too soon; running away is not the same as getting away.
  • OR, just get away from it all every few hours by getting up, walking around, looking out the window and getting a drink of water.  Take a reflective “time out” for several minutes.
  • Don’t have time to take time off?  Plan several mini-vacations instead.
  • Here are a few ideas to get you started:
    • Schedule a massage
    • Have a spiritual growth weekend.  Retreat into nature. Plan some alone time.
    • Go for a drive.  Explore the countryside, slow down and observe nature.
    • Treat yourself to a night in a hotel or bed/breakfast
    • Visit the zoo or a museum
    • Go to a yard sale or auction
    • Drop by a health food store and walk the aisles.
    •  Remember, you can have fun and grieve at the same time.  Don’t feel guilty for needing a break; it will help you survive and revive.

    Laugh – (please don’t tune me out here.) by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Healing your Traumatized Heart

    I remember the first time I laughed out loud after our son died.  I felt guilty that I was laughing when I thought I should still be in mourning.  I found this tip very helpful for me.

    • Humor is one of the most healing gifts of humanity.  Laughter restores hope and assists us in surviving the pain of grief.
    • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that laughing and having fun are somehow a betrayal of the person who died.  Laughing doesn’t mean you don’t miss the person who died.  Laughing doesn’t mean you aren’t in mourning.
    • Sometimes it helps to think about what the person who died would want for you.  Wouldn’t he/she want you to laugh and continue to find joy in life, even in the midst of your sorrow?
    • You can only embrace the pain of your loss a little at a time, in doses.  In between the doses, it’s perfectly normal, even necessary, to love and laugh again.
    • Remember the fun times you shared with the person who died.  Remember his/her sense of humor.  Remember his/her grin and the sound of his/her laughter.
    • I’ve heard it said that laughter is a form of internal jogging.  Not only is it enjoyable, it is good for you.  Studies show that smiling, laughing, and feeling good enhance your immune system and make you healthier.  If you act happy, you may even begin to feel some happiness in your life again.
    • Close your eyes right now and try to remember the smile and the laughter of the person who died.  Over time, encouraging yourself to remember the good times will help you focus less on thoughts of the death itself.

June 2012:Be Proactive in Your Journey Through Grief

BE PROACTIVE IN YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF
by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Center for Greif and Loss

  •  Our society teaches us that emotional pain is to be avoided not embraced, yet it is only in moving toward our grief that we can be healed.
  • As Helen Keller once said, “The only way to get to the other side is to go through the door.”  Because of the traumatic nature of this death, you just need to be sure to open the door slowly and only when you are ready.
  • Keep in mind that there are no rewards for speed.
  • Being proactive in grief means taking an active role in your healing.  One of the most difficult emotions that survivors of sudden, violent death face is the feeling of loss of control.  Something awful has happened and you were unable to prevent it.  You might feel passive and powerless.
  • However, you needn’t think of yourself as a powerless victim or as helpless in the face of grief.  Instead, empower yourself to “do something” with your grief – to mourn it, to express it outside yourself, to find ways to help yourself heal.
  • Be suspicious if you find yourself thinking that you are “doing well” since the death.  Sometimes “doing well” means you’re avoiding your pain.
  • Today, do something to confront and express your grief.  Maybe it’s time to tell someone close to you how you’ve really been feeling.

July 2012: Embrace the Uniqueness of Your Grief

EMBRACE THE UNIQUENESS OF YOUR GRIEF

by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Center for Greif and Loss

  •  Your grief is what it is.  The thoughts and feelings you’ve been having since the death are what they are.  They are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.  They simply are.
  •  Your grief is unique.  There is only one you.  And your relationship with the person who died was unique.  The circumstances of the death make it unique, too.  Go slow.
  • I do not pretend to know all the intricacies of your grief; it is your grief journey.  I simply want to share your grief.
  • While mourners often share similar stories and circumstances, no two people grieve in the same way and in the same time.  Comparing and judging grief separates us on the path we all walk.  This is not to say that you can’t help each other.
  •  Survivors of sudden, violent death often understand and empathize with one another in profoundly healing ways.  Grief, while as unique as our individual fingerprints, is an experience we all share as human beings.
  • Just as you must accept the uniqueness of your own grief, you must also accept the grief responses of others mourning the same death.
  • Others who loved the person who died will grieve in very different ways.  Accept these differences and do not judge others for their unique thoughts and feelings.
  • Today, talk to someone else grieving this death.  Ask him/her how they are feeling and what they are thinking about.  Share your thoughts and feelings.  You may be surprised at both the differences and the similarities in grief.

August 2012: Don’t be Caught Off Guard by Griefbursts

I’ve sent this one before – but somehow I feel someone needs it today.

  • Sometimes heightened periods of sadness may overwhelm you.  These times can seem to come out of nowhere and can be frightening and painful.
  • Even long after death, something as simple as a sound, a smell, or a phrase can bring on a “griefburst.”  You may see someone in a crowd who resembles the person who died.  You may come across an old jacket or baseball glove that belonged to the person who died.  You may smell a certain food or cologne that reminds you of the person who died.  These experiences tend to trigger sudden, unexpected and powerful waves of emotion.
  • I often think that griefbursts are the way the person who has died says to you, “Don’t forget me.  Please don’t forget me.”
  • Allow yourself to experience griefburst without shame or self-judgment, no matter where and when they occur.  If you would feel more comfortable, retreat to somewhere private when these strong feelings surface.
  • Create an action plan for your next griefburst.  For example, you might plan to drop whatever you are doing and go for a walk or record thoughts in your journal.

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September 2012: Embrace the Uniqueness of your Grief
  • Your grief is what it is.  The thoughts and feelings you’ve been having since the death are what they are.  They are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.  They simply are.
  • Your grief is unique.  There is only one you.  And your relationship with the person who died was unique.  The circumstances of death make it unique too.  So go slow.
  • There are 6 Reconciliation Needs of Mourning  (He will review these at the sessions mentioned above).  These are the needs that all mourners must undertake to integrate the loss into their heart and soul.  But I do not pretend to know all the intricacies of your grief; the needs of mourning alone will not define your journey.  Besides, they have been naturally complicated by the traumatic nature of the death.
  • While Mourners often share similar stories and circumstances, no two people grieve in the same way and in the same time.  Comparing and judging grief separates us on the path we all walk.  This is not to say that you can’t help each other; survivors of sudden, violent death often understand and empathize with one another in profoundly healing ways.  Grief, while as unique as our individual fingerprints, is an experience we all share as human beings.
  • Just as you must accept the uniqueness of your own grief, you must also accept the grief responses of others mourning the same death.  Others who loved the person who died will grieve in very different ways.  Accept these differences and do not judge others for their unique thoughts and feelings.
  • Today, talk to someone else grieving this death.  Ask her how she’s feeling and what she’s been thinking about.  Share your thoughts and feelings.  You may be surprised at both the differences and the similarities in grief.

October 2012: Expect to Have a Multitude of Feelings
  • When in grief, we don’t just feel sad.  We may feel numb, angry, guilty, afraid, confused or even relieved.
  • Sometimes these feelings follow each other within a short period of time or they may occur simultaneously.
  • As strange as some of these emotions may seem to you, they are normal and healthy.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judging yourself.
  • Talk about your feelings with someone who cares and can supportively listen.

Keep a Journal……

  • If you like to write, jot down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.  This is excellent for self-care.
  • Remember – your inner thoughts and feelings of grief need to be expressed outwardly (which includes writing) if you are to heal.
  • Consider jotting down your thoughts and feelings each night before you go to sleep.  Your journal entries can be as long or as short as you want or feel like at the time.
  • Or keep a dream journal, instead.  Keep a blank book in your nightstand for recording your dreams when you wake up.

November 2012: Grief Tip for Today-Upcoming Holidays

Plan Out The Special Days

  •  The holiday season may take six weeks or so, but there are just a few actual holidays.  There’s Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, and in between, depending on your spiritual and cultural heritage, there’s Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.
  • Make plans for the days your family normally celebrates.  Decide in advance where you will spend the day and how you will spend it.
  • When you are grieving, “playing it by ear” on these special days usually only compounds feelings of despair and disorganization.  So definitely make some plans.
  • Your plans don’t need to be the same plans you always have.  This year you might decide to do things differently.  And don’t forget to have a back-up plan in case you find yourself unable to follow through with your original plans.
  • A caution:  If you normally spend these holidays in the company of people you love, deciding to spend them alone may be a mistake.  Remember – you need to accept the love and support of others if you are to heal.  Some alone time is certainly necessary when you are grieving, but holiday solitude may only heighten depression and waylay hope.
  • NOTE:  Get out your holiday calendar right now and jot down plans for the upcoming important days.
December 2012: Self-Compassionate Principles

10 Self-Compassionate Principles
by: Alan Wolfelt, Center for Loss

Though you should reach out to others as you journey through grief, you should not feel obligated to accept unhelpful responses you may receive from some folks.  You are the one who is grieving, and you have certain “rights” no one should take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help.  This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful response from hurtful ones:

1.     You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve the same way you do.  So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

2.     You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal.  Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want about your grief.  If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3.     You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey.  Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong.  Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart.  Instead, find listeners who will accept our feelings without condition.

4.     You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued.  Respect what your body and mind are telling you.  Get daily rest.  Eat balanced meals.  And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5.      You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you.  This can be frightening, but is normal and natural.  Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6.      You have the right to make use of rituals.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved.  It helps provide you with the support of caring people.  More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn.  If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7.     You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you.  Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs.  If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8.     You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die?  Why this way?  Why now?”  Some of your questions may have answers, but most do not.  And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you.  Comments like, “It was God’s will”  or “Think of what you still have to be thankful for” – these are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9.      You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  You will always remember.  Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10.   You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly.  Remember, grief is a process, not an event.  Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you.  Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.