Period or Ellipsis?

Facts can be funny things. Some are truly universal. The sun is hot! Yep, that’s true for you and me as well. But other facts are not necessarily true for both you and me… unless they are. Oh boy, here we go already.

For instance. I read and hear many experts give guidelines of what to say to someone who is grieving They frequently also offer very specific guidelines about what not to say to someone who is experiencing grief. I appreciate and find value in these guidelines, but what if they are not helpful for everyone? Is it possible that what feels supportive for one may not be for another? Put on your pondering cap, and feel your way through.

Mistakes will be made, lessons will be learned. Life is like that. I try to remember that when something shares a fact as hard and fast, it is because to them it is indeed true. Period. End of sentence. I get that, but I also have found that hearing or reading some of these truths or what felt like rules to me was not always helpful but was in fact often confusing and even painful as I considered that if experts were telling me one thing and I was feeling different clearly the conclusion was that I was wrong. I was hurting in the wrong way. I was taking comfort from the wrong things. I was grieving and healing all wrong!

Wow, this was less than helpful. Very quickly, I began to read and listen in a new way. When someone would share a truth, a fact and end their sentence with a period, I would find myself hearing or imagine seeing an ellipsis… this gave me the freedom to find my own way. And to know that what is true for me, what is factual for me, may be different than it is for another.

Period. For me, this means non-negotiable, no flexibility, written in stone.
Ellipsis… ahhhh, what if this is true for some and not for others? This felt more supportive, more open to walking the path in my own way.

So if you hear me say something and it sounds like a fact, please know that it is factual for me. If it doesn’t sound or feel right for you, go ahead and add that ellipsis… and ask yourself, what if things look or feel different for me?

You and I are all walking this our own path of grief into healing. Even while we walk together, sometimes hand in hand, we continue to have our own unique experience.

Namaste,
Sandy

Grief and Healing. What do the Words Mean to You?

I only speak one verbal language, English of the American variety. The truth is that I looooove words! I find language, the nuances, the various ways that we use words to express a variety of meanings to be absolutely fascinating.

Something that I realize more and more is that phrases and words may not mean the same thing to you and me. While I find some words or phrases to be helpful others may find them hurtful. The reverse is also true.

For example, the phrase ‘You never get over it.’ I’ve been assured by more than one rather brilliant professional with all of the appropriate letters after their names that assures me they are licensed counselors, that phrase is true. Hands down, no discussion, it’s true for everyone who is experiencing grief due to death.

Each time I explained that I find the phrase absolutely terrifying! For me, it feels as though I am being told that I will suffer, hurt and never laugh again and that neither will anyone of those I love who have also experienced grief.  Ever. It feels final. A bit like being shackled and tossed to the back of a dark cave. As I said, a horrible feeling – for me.

At the same time, I realize full well that many are comforted by that phrase as they are reminded that it’s perfectly natural to have difficult moments, hours or even days long after the one they love has died.

The same phrase, but very different responses.

I often read websites or books that tell us what to say and what not to say to someone we are endeavoring to support through grief. As I read those books and those websites, I greatly appreciate the kind assistance that is offered. At the same time, again and again, I find myself wanting to suggest that those are not hard and fast rules. What feels good today may be painful tomorrow… or not.

* Forgiveness
* Healing
* Life after death

To offer just a few. I know how each feels for me, what the meaning is for me. At the same time, I am very aware that they may land differently for you.

I offer this thought, or perhaps a suggested exercise. When you are speaking about your own grief or with someone about theirs, ask how these phrases and words feel to them. Discuss what feels helpful for you and be open to hearing what is true for them in their own experience.

Yes, we share a common language. But the most helpful conversations are when we feel welcome and supported to understand one another.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

Healing – It can be Messy Stuff

When I think about grief, particularly as it’s associated with the death of someone we love; I find that it’s really easy for me to think of it as a static thing, maybe a closet of sorts. Something that simply exists as the result of a loss. This makes sense because we experience pain and sorrow when we lose someone to death.

This line of thinking causes a shift within my being. Grief goes from being static, which to me can be overwhelming, to something that is fluid. This means that it can move, shift and evolve. Even typing that out, I feel lightness within my being.

I was thinking about this recently. Hubby and I were out walking one early evening. As I admired the beautiful yards and watched the kids playing outdoors, I completely forgot to watch my feet and where they were being placed on the sidewalk. As a consequence, my face met that sidewalk and no, the result wasn’t pretty. My sunglasses broke and cut my forehead. Lots of blood, which seemed to really impress the little boy who lived there. He was pretty adorable.

A short trip to the local Urgent Care got the cut glued up in no time and I was quickly on the road to healing.

Here’s the thing, healing didn’t mean that the wound immediately went away. Nope, instead, my face swelled pretty impressively. I got headaches with too much movement for a few days which caused me to sleep more than usual and to rest. Which my body needed for effective healing.

No, grieving and healing are not always pretty. I think of the tears I’ve shed as a result of grief and the truth is that it was loud, snotty and possibly a wee bit horrifying for anyone who might see me. I’m not a pretty crier, I would not be filmed for a dramatic role in a movie. Messy indeed, but it gets the job done.

Sometimes we are less than kind to those who are trying to support us. Or we misunderstand what someone is trying to express. It can take time and work to sort this out, but it’s worth it.

Grieving and healing are messy. Plain and simple. We may become fatigued, we may be cranky, we may have needs that we have difficulty explaining. All natural, normal, human parts of this process.

I like to think of it as a messy closet. Imagine having a closet jam-packed with thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We can think of this closet as grief. That static something that I referred to earlier. It can take an enormous amount of courage to open that closet door, but it’s a very important first step.

One by one, taking items out of that closet. There may be experiences, emotions, memories scattered all about, but that’s just fine. It’s part of the process.

For a moment, or however long you need, hold them each. Feeling and acknowledging each and every one allows them to begin to release their charge. We then can decide if they go back into the closet or if it’s time to let them go. No right or wrong, simply progress. If we decide to hold on to them, we may well find that they are a bit lighter, they don’t take up as much space in our closet. The extra space is now occupied by a wee bit of healing.

Yes, healing is a messy business. No doubt about it. This line of thinking causes a shift within my being as it reminds me that it’s okay to grieve I the way that’s right for me. Grief shifts from being static, which to me can be overwhelming, to something that is fluid. This means that it can move and evolve. This is where healing happens.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

 

 

Self-Care, Yes, it Matters

If we’ve worked together for anything, you’ve heard me suggest… encourage… alright, I nag about self-care! Because it matters so very much. Self-care is right at the top of the list as far as I’m concerned.

Why? Because if you are not taking good care of you, you cannot possibly take care of anyone or anything else.

What does self-care mean? It means something different to all of us and it’s quite likely that it may mean something different this evening than it does at this moment. Put as simply as possible, it’s giving yourself permission to do what you need most at this moment.

For example, a cup of coffee and a stroll around the yard in the very wee hours of the morning is excellent self-care for me. The coffee feels warm in my hands even while the morning dew refreshes my feet. Taking a peek at plants as they are opening up, some showing off brand new blooms put me in a very excited and at the same time very tranquil frame of mind. It’s good for me.

Later, I pretty much need a walk. On nice days, I may need a couple. Walking, stretching my legs calms me and reminds me that I am strong and capable.

As the day winds down, I almost always feel a strong longing to spend time in the bathtub. It may be 10 minutes or an hour. Here’s the thing, it truly is a very intense feeling, my body and body are telling me to carve out time to spend in the water. I always feel like my very soul craves being near water and whenever possible, in the water.

Other days, self-care means checking off boxes that are on my list. Maybe cutting the grass or cleaning the house. Please, please, please let it be cutting the grass and not cleaning the house! 🙂

It might be realizing that concerns or worry are money related. The act of acknowledging and understanding what is prompting this feeling helps to find a solution. Perhaps cutting an expense or picking up a few extra hours at work. Also, excellent self-care if the feeling within you is good.

The very process of discernment, what is mine and what can/should I delegate? Making those decisions are excellent self-care as this brings around a calm which relieves stress.

It’s absolutely, completely, entirely alright to ask for support! We can’t do everything for everyone all of the time. It’s a gift to others as well as ourselves to ask for and allow support and caring. To share a hug, a meal or a conversation.

Self-care is about treating yourself with at least as much kindness, compassion and courtesy as you would a stranger.

Notice what your body is telling you, is it being nurtured with healthy food in the right proportions? Hear what your heart is saying to you. Are your thoughts and feeling being expressed in safe and healthy ways?

Excellent self-care is not any one thing. It is many small things. It’s making yourself a priority. After all, there’s only one like you. I know this to be true because I heard it from Mr. Rogers.

“Taking care is one way to show your love. Another way is letting people take good care of you when you need it.”
― Fred Rogers

Namaste,
Sandy

Your Feelings are Valid!

What you feel matters. It is important that your feelings, your emotions are acknowledged, accepted and respected as valid. Because they are valid.

Far too often we think about and even label emotions or feelings as negative or positive. I don’t feel that’s accurate at all. I think of emotions are sign-posts or indicators of what is happening inside of us. They tell us where we are in any given moment.

Here’s one way of looking at this. Pulling out a map of the United States, perhaps I am quite determined to walk my path until I arrive in Olympia, Washington. Sounds just fine, doesn’t it? I hear things are pretty swell in that area.

Without knowing where I am currently, I have no clear way of discerning that direction that I would prefer to walk. Now to be clear, there is no right or wrong way to get there! Perhaps I would walk north for a while, taking long rests along the mountains and appreciating the solitude. The steps to take and the direction to move is always a very personal decision. However, if I don’t know where I am beginning, I will only hope to arrive at Olympia, Washington. I won’t have any way to know if I am getting closer, circling around the edges or even if I’m smack in the middle of the place – unless there is a sign, an indicator which tells me where I am.

That’s what our emotions do for us. They indicate our mood and tell us what we need. Anger, resentment, and frustration deserve every bit as much awareness, acknowledgment, and respect as happy and content.

Knowing what these indicators help us to use safe, healthy, effective strategies. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done except acknowledge and support. There are most definitely times that the best we and those who love us can do is to simply breathe together. To know that it is okay to feel the way that we do. For as long as we need to. It’s okay, we’ll take steps when we’re ready. And our emotions will indicate that to us as well.

Human beings are amazingly intricate, fabulously multi-faceted beings. As such we are capable of an incredible range of emotions. I encourage you to close your eyes for a moment and really notice what you are feeling. Let go of any judgment, simply notice… acknowledge and know that whatever you are feeling is a sign-post for you.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

Grief to Healing

Grief is a noun. Sometimes I think about the word grief and I feel almost as though the word describes a thing, a place, a state of being. Grief. I wonder what it would look like if I could visualize it…

You’ve experienced a profound loss. It may be a person, a relationship, a financial situation or a myriad of other experiences. When we experience loss when we are faced with a profound change in our status of being. We may well feel as though we are victims. Fair enough. You are now in Grief. I visualize a sign-post designating this place.

Depending on many factors, we may spend quite a lot of time in that place without much movement at all. This is not unusual and may well be what we need at that time and possibly for a while. That’s alright, it’s where we are when we begin.

At some point, we begin movement. Healing. It can happen incredibly slowly or more quickly than we expect. We process our thoughts and emotions, we make strides along that path, through grief into healing. We are taking action. Up ahead is a new sign-post, it clearly says Survivor.

Grieving is a verb. An action word. Safe, healthy, productive grieving is taking place. So very important! As the pain is released, it makes room for healing to happen.

The Victim is now taking action, walking the path, moving forward to that new situation. The Victim is transformed into a Survivor. When I think of a survivor, I easily call to mind the image of someone who has been through something that has changed life as they knew it. They are changed, forever. The person is now a Survivor.

How would it be to deliberately continue to process thoughts, emotions, all of the aspects of grief? To continue walking that path, through grief into healing? Up ahead there is another sign-post you know.

Keep doing the work! Each step you take toward that new sign-post is an important gift of self-love that you give to yourself. And you deserve it!

Processing the hurt, finding out who you are now. Learning to love yourself in new ways and to integrate your experience. Celebrating all that you treasure from your past, appreciating your now and looking forward with joy to your future. You are evolving with every step, you are growing, you are healing.

You are a Thriver! Of course, I want to share the definition of thriver with you.

To grow vigorously; flourish.
To be successful or make steady progress; prosper.

This is you and me as well. We all begin at that same place, regardless of how we got there. Grief. As we do the work, we walk the path, together. We move at whatever pace is right for each of us. But each of us has within ourselves the ability to be a Thriver.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

 

Reiki and Grief

As a Reiki master/teacher, I’ve been very fortunate to work with many during very difficult times in their lives as well as when they are simply looking for a bit of relaxation.

I also have the ability to flow Reiki for my own self-care, to bring balance back to my entire system. Most often this is a gift that I cherish and deeply appreciate, the healing energy of Reiki always feels so very good to me. What I didn’t realize until I was plunged into my deepest grief, was how extraordinarily beneficial I would find receiving Reiki from others.

A week or two after my son died, one of my dearest friends, who is also Reiki, invited me to have a session. Even now, I remember driving there, anticipating the processing of emotion and beginning to feel lighter. That gift was something that I needed far more than I realized and I still appreciate it greatly.

Yes, receiving the healing energy of Reiki helped me to process thoughts and feelings that I was struggling to release. And they most definitely need to be released.

I appreciate that Reiki does not force anything, but rather allows the flow, the movement, the release that’s right for the person receiving. This was incredibly important for me then and continues to be just as important now.

Laying on that table, relaxing. Feeling the hands very lightly touch me and trusting that the Reiki energy was doing just what was right for me. I’m grateful. Grateful to be able to flow the healing energy for myself and those I care about as well as those I work with. I’m grateful for the friend who shared that gift with me as well. Reiki, the energy gift that keeps on flowing.

Namaste,
Sandy

Reiki Level One – Class coming up

Are you ready to welcome the gentle vibration of Reiki?

Reiki is energy work which supports relaxation and the release of stress. As stress is released, balance is restored. Ahhhhh, don’t you feel better already?

Completely safe, Reiki supports your best overall health.

This interactive class provides plenty of opportunity to share your thoughts, ask questions and of course, to both give and receive Reiki yourself. It’s a hands-on experience.

Dress casually in comfortable clothes.
You may want to bring paper and pen for notes, though this is not required.
Water and a light snack will be provided

To register, contact Sandy.
Serenity@SandyWalden.com
or follow the link: http://www.sandywalden.com/reiki-classes/

Namaste,
Sandy

 

Healing Support for Suicide Loss

This group is for adults who have lost someone to suicide.

Meeting with others who have experienced suicide grief is powerful. Spending this time together provides a safe, respectful space to truly acknowledge your feelings and experiences… and to begin healing.

You are not alone! Sandy and many others have walked this path, and continue to do so. Healing can and does happen. It’s a very natural part of this journey, made much easier with the support of others.

Join with Sandy, to walk that path, through grief, into healing.

Questions? Contact Sandy
E: Serenity@SandyWalden.com
_______________________________

June 4, July 2, August 6, September 3
7-8:30 PM
CATHE Center – Gray House
Free of charge

The Contract

The words you are about to read are an excerpt from my book, The Acorn Journal: Messages of Connection from The Other Side.

I’m sharing this because Mike has been on my mind in such wonderful ways recently. You see, his birthday is right around the corner, Sunday, June 2nd. This year, he would have turned 32 years old. I’ve been thinking about all the laughter we shared over those 23 years. The squabbling, debating, playing… all of it. And I have to say, I’m so grateful for all of those years.

Mike loved knock-knock jokes, especially of the pirate variety. So, expect to see more of them on my Facebook page in the upcoming days.

As you read The Contract, I encourage you to think about the people you love, imagine the agreements that you made with them. And I hope that your heart feels both more full and lighter, all at the same time.

The Contract

My son Mike was 23 years old when he died. One day I was thinking about Mike and his short life, how much he was loved and how much he loved all of his family and friends. After much soul searching and contemplation, I made up a scenario in my head. What if…

What if before Mike was born I had the opportunity to read a contract. This contract would explain that on June 2, 1987, at precisely 6 am I would give birth to a 9lb bundle of love. As the contract went on it would explain that this hazel-eyed little boy would announce that he was awake by laughing and giggling in his crib. He would grow into a sweet, bull-headed, smart boy who would drive his elder brothers crazy by always humming or singing. He would not care about playing sports or being cool, he would be passionate about books and music. As he grew he would favor cowboy boots and flannel shirts, of the red and black variety.

As he became a teenager he would deal with Addison’s disease, but in his normal manner, he would seem to take it in stride. An intensely private person he would be very open and opinionated about how others should live their life. He would make strong friendships and he would develop interesting hobbies, brewing beer and wine and cooking, as well as hunting.

The contract would go on to clearly state that while we would be able to love and interact with this amazing person, on December 17, 2010, at some point he would end his short life by shotgun. There would be no negotiating this ending, it would be so. It would be written in the contract.

What if I had the option of signing that contract? Would I opt to learn to love this person with all of my heart if I knew that same heart would break in a million pieces on December 18, 2010, when my doorbell rang and a sheriff told me of my son’s death? Would I sign that contract knowing how profoundly my sweet husband would be affected, that I would watch him age years before my eyes? Would I sign the contract knowing that my two surviving sons would never be the same, that they would have to experience the most severe heartbreak imaginable while still in their 20’s? Would I sign that contract if it meant that we would all have to experience everything that we have in the past year?

Yes! I would, again and again, I would sign that contract! And I believe that my husband, two surviving sons, and my daughter-in-law would put their signatures right alongside mine and Mike’s. Without hesitation.

Knowing and loving my son was worth each and every moment of heartbreak. The blessings, the smiles the laughs, the aggravation, yelling, and squabbling were all blessings. And I would indeed sign that contract.

For the record, it is my belief that my soul did sign an energetic contract saying just what I’ve laid out above. That’s my belief and it may or not be yours. But I find comfort in knowing that even if I had known all those years ago how it would end, I would do it again. It’s so been worth it, at least for me.

And that gives me the strength to go forward for another day.

Namaste,
Sandy