Connect…

Guest post by Ari.

Connect…

When my boy died I was left with only photos and memories. I could still hear his voice, the sound of his laughter in the house, could still feel his hug. No-one hugged me like he did – both arms around my back, his head on my shoulder, holding on for longer than just a few seconds. How I missed those hugs!

I often walked around the neighborhood during the first weeks and months of my grief, long walks that would take me away from the house, away from some of the memories and questions and sadness. It really didn’t help- the grief followed me! But in connecting with nature, crying to the sky, seeing the beauty that was in a sunrise, or feeling the cold rain mix with my tears, I started to feel my boy’s spirit. He walked with me, giving me comfort, trying to give me peace. He did not give me any answers as to why he left so suddenly – that will probably never happen, but he did help me to re-enter life, after many many months, and to start learning acceptance. What had happened was never in my control, perhaps not in his either, but in learning to accept that he had died, and the way he died, started me to heal, to learn to let go of the guilt, and with it some of the sadness.

I started seeing seagulls whenever I walked and thought of him. Had they always been there, flying around, white wings beautiful against the blue sky? One would suddenly come into view, gilded by the golden light of the sun, do a few turns over me as if saying hello, I’m here, then fly away. Sometimes whole groups would fly over me. Once I asked God if seagulls are a sign of his spirit then let me see a dozen all at once. The next morning, as I opened the drapes to the morning light one, flew by, followed by another, and another. I counted 12. I had my answer, and it stayed in my heart. I still say “hi” when I see a seagull.

I walk almost every day still, it has been over five years without my beloved son. I don’t look towards the sky as often anymore, there is so much beauty all around me to explore and enjoy. Flowers, little kids at the park, dogs, people. I see my seagulls on days when I feel happy as if he comes to say “good job mom!”, and on those sad, back into the hole kind of days that I will invariably continue to experience while I live he comes too, calling his mournful call, up in the sky, circling until I see and acknowledge him. He comes to comfort his mom. If I believe it and feel it in my heart it must be so, right? Yes, this is how I connect with my son, since the beginning he has watched over me, and I will continue to smile when I see his spirit in the shape of a beautiful seagull.

Find what comforts you, what makes you feel close to them, what fills your heart. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, it only matters what you feel when you connect with your beloved.

 

 

Welcome 2020

Today is the first day of 2020. Many have goals and plans and that’s fabulous. I hope that your goals are exceeded and that your plans turn out beautifully. But what if your experience is different?
 
If you have a grieving heart, today may feel overwhelming. As though there is incredible pressure to do better. To strive for more, to excel. I’m here to encourage you to make your New Year’s resolution one of kindness – to yourself.
Know that it is alright to make plans – or not.
Know that it is alright to laugh or cry – or not.
Know that it is alright to be with others -or not.
Know that it is alright to exercise 3 times a week – or not.

I bet that by now, you are getting my point. I want to encourage you, with everything in me, to listen to your heart. What is it telling you that you need? In this moment now, what do you want? What will bring you a measure of calm, of healing?

If setting goals feels right, go for it. But please remember that the grieving heart needs tender loving care.

Sending you my love and wishing that your 2020 will be a gentle year of peaceful grieving and deep healing.

Namaste,
Sandy

Don’t take anything Personally

As you read the title about this message, did you find yourself saying ‘Okay, but grief is different. Grief is intensely personal!

I get it. Really I do. At the same time, holding on to this Agreement has allowed me to hold on to more peace and sanity than I would if have if it weren’t something I learned long ago.

You’ve heard me say it, or you’ve read my words, this stuff of grieving is less than graceful. In fact, I personally find that grieving and healing is incredibly messy stuff. I have made some incredible blunders along the way and so have those who have supported me. Usually with the best of intentions. Even so, we’re all human, and that means that from time to time we will make mistakes.

Years ago, my first Reiki teacher, Deb Karpek told me about a small book, ‘The Four Agreements’ by don Miguel Ruiz. This book is one of the most important and meaningful that I have ever read. The Agreements are deceptively simple, but that doesn’t mean that they are easy. Still, understanding them and being open to being guided by these Agreements has helped me tremendously.

The 2nd of the Agreements is ‘Don’t take anything personally.’ Yep, that sounds reasonable on the surface, but I needed to understand it better to make it a part of my being.

Here’s the scoop, and as I said, it sounds simple enough. Anything that I say, is about me – not you. If I am nasty, it’s got nothing to do with you! It’s about the way I feel. Think of that silly rhyme we sang as children, something along the lines of ‘I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.’ As it should because it’s all about the person who is being nasty anyway. As much as possible, imagine yourself ducking and weaving, let it go right past you. Because it is not about you. It’s not yours to receive or hold on to. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

At the same time, if I am kind, that too has nothing to do with you. It is the feeling that I need to express. If you choose to accept that kindness, it’s a win for both of us.

Remember you have the choice to accept or let anything go on by.

As I said, the business of grieving and supporting someone we love through grief is complicated and often messy. We may lose our tempers. They may phrase something in a way that is hurtful. Deep breaths are helpful here. Ignore the words if you can and do your best to become aware of the intention behind the words. If it is not kind, go ahead and let it go, don’t take it personally. You may choose to walk away. If the intention feels loving and supportive, you have the opportunity to accept to the degree it feels right for you.

Mistakes will be made. Even after almost 9 years, I’m still astonished at some of the bone-headed remarks that have been made to me. But here’s the thing, most of them were intended to offer comfort and ease, to convey compassion and support. These people simply didn’t know how to articulate what their hearts wanted to convey. And so, I didn’t take it personally. It was and continues to be, tremendously helpful.

Here is a link to that incredible little book. I suggest buying at least 2 copies. One to keep and one to share. It’s that life-changing.
The Four Agreements

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

Is it Wrong to Feel Happiness when Grieving?

Ahhh, the amazing complexities of being human.

So very often I will hear someone say that if they laugh or even chuckle, that they feel guilty. Somehow they feel that if they are not exhibiting intense pain at every moment – that perhaps they are not honoring their loved one.  As you might imagine, I believe otherwise.

I have often shared that on the day I learned that my son Mike was dead, at only 23 years old and by his own hand, there was laughter in my home.

Yes, there was sobbing. The sort that shakes your entire being. The sort of crying that feels as though a permanent trail is being carved into your face. The pain was intense. The heartbreak was real. And yet, there was laughter.

And yes, I was one of the people that smiled and laughed. Many stories of things Mike said and did were shared that day and many times since. Because Mike was a person who loved to laugh, to do silly things, to push the buttons of others – a big part of sharing these stories was once again experiencing the thoughts and feelings when these things first occurred. This brought about longing to once again hug my boy, but it also resulted n chuckles and some outright laughter.

No, sharing these warm memories and even the laughter did not in any way diminish my love for Mike or the grief that I felt knowing he would not walk into the room again, that in fact, Mike had died.

These feelings existed within me at the same time. Along with many other emotions. I felt gratitude that I had been given this special person to love and have in my world for 23 years. I felt worried and even fear for my husband and surviving sons. I felt nurtured and cared for by all of them and the many amazing people who reached out in love.

We can and do often experience many feelings at one time.  At this moment, I’m feeling calm and relaxed. I feel a wee bit of sadness that Mike can’t heckle me about my feelings right now while I’m typing this. I know he would have a lot to say.

Even while holding those feelings I am happy and grateful to the amazing teacher and mentor who just interviewed me for business. And I also am a bit worried about someone that I care about who is experiencing a health issue.

Yes, all of these feelings and more are co-existing within me at this moment.  Humans are multi-faceted, complicated beyond comprehension and absolutely capable of feeling many things at one time.

It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to enjoy a meal or an outing, a book or a movie. It’s okay to think about something different and become completely absorbed in that thought or experience.  Even when your grief is very new, raw and intense.

Feeling moments of respite, even joy does not mean that you don’t love the person you are grieving with your entire being. It simply means that you are quite wonderfully human.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A series: How do I explain to my Children?

Helping Children Grieve – Children and teens of all ages feel the loss of someone important in their lives. See how you can model handling grief and provide age-appropriate activities designed to help you communicate. Take back the time you have with your children. Most of these ideas are tech-free. Easy and inexpensive, they will bring healing to the whole family. 

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If someone significant in your child’s life dies, it is important to realize that children grieve differently than adults. How we help them depends, in large part, on the age of the child. It might be a parent or grandparent loss, another family member or even the death of a friend or classmate. No matter how young or how old a child or teenager is, the loss will be felt, and there are ways to help.

Tell your child what he or she can understand. Honesty is the best policy here because often classmates or adults will mention something within a child’s hearing that is shocking news. Babies and toddlers may just need extra hugs, for while they will miss the person who died, they are too young to understand what death means. Children do not need explicit details or lengthy conversations. This article, “10 Questions Children Ask about Death and Dying” may help you prepare.

The news is best given by the person who is closest to the child. Calm explanations for a loved one’s absence may need to be repeated at different times, always with reassurances that the child is loved and will be taken care of. Hugs and continuing support for all ages will help, but some older children or teens may prefer to talk to friends, write in a journal or connect with other kids going through the same emotions. (See Kidsaid link below.) Give your child time, and let them know you are there whenever you are needed.

Modeling ways to handle grief yourself can go far in teaching children and teens that it is okay to cry, okay to play, okay to take care of self. Follow these suggestions yourself. Find support, and make sure you have private time when you need it. It’s fine to let activities continue if your child wants to participate. If you need more time before resuming your normal routine, ask a trusted friend for help in getting your child to school, birthday parties or sports activities.

You and your family can get through this time of grief and mourning. Your life has changed with the loss of someone dear to you, but you will become stronger as time goes on. You will be able to face the challenges ahead.

Here are a few resources:
The Dougy Center (The National Center for Grieving Children and Families)
www.dougycenter.org

Childmind (Coping with a Parent’s Suicide; also teacher and Spanish resources)
www.childmind.org

​Kidsaid.com (from GriefNet.org and a place where kids can get support and interact with each other)
http://www.kidsaid.com/index.html

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.

Sometimes We Need to Sit in the Mud

A very wise woman I know very gently reminds others, ‘Sometimes you just need to spend time sitting in the mud’.

And I believe she’s absolutely right.

When you have a heart that is grieving, you may not even realize how very exhausted you are at the end of each day… or even right after waking. Grief is very hard work!

Time out matters.

While we often think that we need to get things done, even having a to-do list, a very important part of healing a grieving heart is allowing time and opportunity to simply be in the now. To truly feeeeeeeel all of those emotions at whatever level they are in the moment.

Release judgment. There is no right or wrong to your feelings. They simply are a measurement, an indicator of where you are right now.

What might this look like? It could mean a day curled up in bed for some. Perhaps listening to music, sleeping, crying or reminiscing. It might be time spent on the couch watching shows or movies that take us back to cherished time spent with the one we are missing. Perhaps a nice warm bath nourishing your body.

Find what works for you. This is not about movement or work; this is about feeling and allowing your heart to express itself.

And here’s a little secret for you. While this may feel as though you are doing nothing at all, you are in fact accomplishing quite a lot. It’s important to fully feel and acknowledge all feelings in order for them to begin healing.

Spend some time sitting in the mud. As you rest your body, your heart and your soul be assured that healing is happening deep within. This is a very important part of the healing journey.

Namaste,
Sandy

When we Grieve a Pet

Are you a pet lover? If you’ve ever considered a horse, guinea pig, dog, cat or any animal your friend or even family then you well understand the special bond and steadfast love that exists between you and this amazing being.

So why is it that so many are surprised at the grief that sets in when we have to say good-bye?

I hear those who are grieving say things like ‘I understand she was just a dog.’ and it’s often followed with tearful, loving honesty ‘She knew me, she was my best friend.’ And there it is, that loving bond that can be so hard to explain if you are not someone who has ever been close to a beloved pet.

It’s alright if you don’t understand that bond, that absolute unconditional love that people talk about when they go on and on about these companions that are so much more than pets. Maybe you’re not an animal person, that’s alright.

What I ask, is that we remember love comes in all sorts of shapes and forms. It may not be something that we understand or it might be completely clear to us. Grief is the result of someone or something that is cherished ending. Perhaps that companion had to be re-homed, or it may be that they died. Regardless, there has been a parting and it just plain hurts.

Recently, I’ve known a few people who had to say good-bye to their four-legged family members. I will tell you without a doubt, that there was heartbreak in their voices and love in their eyes as they talked about how they will miss their friends.

If you are grieving a pet, please know that your heart deserves the same support and kindness that should accompany any loss. If you care about someone who has had to say good-bye to one of these special relationships, please be gentle and patient. Let the person you care about talk about their pet, show you pictures, and yes, let them cry. Be there for them because it matters.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A What about guilt and blame?

It doesn’t matter how the news comes or exactly how a loved one died, questions surrounding guilt and blame can creep into a survivor’s mind, sometimes returning again and again.

Did I cause this to happen? Could I have prevented it? What would have made a difference?

It is human nature to look for reasons, cause and effect, and others to blame. Even when we know why (automobile accident, cancer, heart disease), our thoughts can tumble toward guilt or blame aimed directly at ourselves or others … and away from the harsh reality of the loss itself.

When the “why” question is not as clear, as in traumatic loss to suicide, these feelings can be magnified, yet there are things we can do to understand why we feel this way and how we can calm these thoughts.

Find support. Get professional help. Remember that you did not have complete control.

We are only human. Trying to help a loved one through extreme challenges is not something love alone can manage. Even mental health experts are blindsided at times and cannot predict suicide with reliability.

Perhaps you had no idea that your loved one was struggling. Connect with others who share similar experiences. People who are further along on this journey will have valuable insights to share. They will listen without tiring.

Every day, millions of people remember precious loved ones they have lost this way. Don’t let the undeserved stigma that sometimes surrounds suicide keep you in isolation.

You are not alone.

Jan’s “Battling Guilt and Regret fact sheet” includes definitions, resources, actionable steps and journal prompts to help you deal with these issues. For even more resources, visit Way For Hope – Resources

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.

Reiki and Healing Grief

I’m grateful to say Reiki has been a part of my life for a very long time.

I’ve called upon Reiki for day to day stress relief, for myself and others. Reiki has been there when my dog began having strokes as a young boxer of only 4 years old. I felt the energy radiate and I was able to watch him come back in a way that still leaves me amazed. And of course, I’ve been privileged to work with clients to release and heal.

This healing energy is often considered an alternative modality. But I will tell you quite frankly, for me, I call on Reiki first. Because it can never harm, I trust Reiki to support me through headaches, worries or injuries. And that’s just what it does.

If you are unfamiliar with Reiki, let me tell you a bit about what a session will be like when we work together. If you are receiving the session in person, you will likely lie down on a massage table. Wear comfortable clothing because you are fully clothed at all times.  There will be relaxing music playing, at the level you prefer. Your job is to simply close your eyes and relax. While you are laying on the table, I will spend the next 60 minutes moving around you. If I have your permission to touch you, I will gently lay my hands on you. If you prefer not to be touched, be assured the energy flows just as well. In that case, I would simply hold my hands above your body. We generally touch because humans crave the touch of other humans, but this is very individual. At the end of the hour, I will gently call you back to full wakefulness. You can share your thoughts and feelings if you like, but it is not necessary. This is entirely up to you.

Reiki has also been something that has played a strong role in healing grief for me and others. I will always be grateful to the Reiki practitioner who worked with me when my son died and also so grateful that I could send this energy myself. This gentle energy has helped to release pent up stress, worry, emotions that seemed blocked. After a Reiki session, it just seems that everything flows more easily.

It’s important to remember, that Reiki supports us to release what no longer serves us and to heal in whatever way we are ready for in that moment. There have been times when someone has got up from my Reiki table and poured out their heart, often surprising themselves. Be assured, anything shared is completely confidential. This is cleansing, healing and completely natural.

Other times, they might feel a deepening calm or peace. Really, it’s about what is right for the person receiving the energy. Reiki. I encourage you to consider adding this gentle treatment to your self-care regimen.

Namaste,
Sandy