How can I Support Someone Grieving?

That’s a really good question, and I’m so glad that you asked. (wink)

When someone’s heart has been broken, we want to help. It’s human nature and let’s face it, you are a really good human! The problem is that we don’t know what to say or what to do. How would we? We have not supported this friend through this experience before, we’re all new at this and doing the best that we can.

– Show up. Call, text, email, drop a card in the mail. Let the one you care about know that you care. Grief doesn’t heal or go away after a few days. Keep reminding them that you care, that they matter.

– Please be patient. Shock often sets in almost immediately and can last days, weeks or even months. For some, it means that focus takes a walk and memory seems to be on an extended vacation. The one grieving may not be able to process what she is reading or hearing and may need to have things repeated, more than once. He may not remember what you told him a few moments ago. Please, take a deep breath and remember this is someone you care about.

– What do we hear or say? Just call me if you need anything. And we mean it, we really do. But can I let you in on a secret? The one who is experiencing grief may be too overwhelmed to make that call even if they are able to focus enough to determine what they actually need.  This was certainly true for me. What I did find helpful were very specific offers. So here are a few suggestions to give you an idea.

– Ask if you can mow the grass.
– Call and say that you are going to the store for milk and eggs, ask if they have a meal for supper or would they like some tea.
– Headed out for a walk? Invite the one you care about to join you.
– Offer to take the dog for a walk or the children to the park. Ask if they would prefer to join you or have a bit of quiet time.

I think you get the idea. Specifics make it easier for the one who is experiencing grief to focus for a moment and discern what they want or need.

– Say their name! Say the name of the one that is missed. Tell a story about them, something that touched your heart or made you smile. Ask the one who is grieving to share a bit more. This is a gift that will always be cherished.

– Be the back-up. When a day or event is coming up that you expect may be difficult, offer to be their reinforcement. If there is an event coming up and your loved one is considering attending, let them know that you will be there for them. Shoulder to shoulder, it matters. Talk ahead of time about what sort of signal they can give you to let you know they need to have a break or even to leave. In short, be their safety net.

– Take a deep breath if the person you are supporting is unkind or short-tempered with you. Count to 3, or 5 or 137 before responding. What does your heart tell you they intend to convey to you? This does not mean that it’s necessary for you to be a doormat! As gently as possible, in a calm and quiet tone, respond from your heart. Kindness always matters.

– Notice language. If in doubt, ask. When my son died, I realized how many people were terrified of the word suicide. Because the word is so strongly stigmatized some would whisper or avoid saying the word. For me, that was not a concern, but it might be for others. Terminology can land quite painfully for some, please be sensitive. Again, thinking about losing my son to suicide, some would use the phrase ‘committed suicide’ this never bothered me at all. But I do know and care about folks who are deeply offended by that phrase. Notice, be aware and if in doubt, simply ask what is okay.

You are going to make mistakes. Forgive yourself. The one you are supporting is going to make mistakes. Forgive them. Remember that we are all doing the best we can and let that be enough. What matters most is that you care enough to let the person grieving know that they matter to someone. That they are loved. Bless you, for sharing your heart.

Namaste,
Sandy

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

 

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

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

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

What if…We Really Listened?

Political season is here in the United States. These days it feels particularly vicious. One person calling the other names, each trying to demonize the other. As I’ve watched, read and tried to listen, it seems to me that I’m not having much opportunity to really get to know what these people really believe or intend to bring about if they are elected.

It occurs to me that while this sort of thing is incredibly obvious in the political arena, it happens in our everyday lives as well.

What would it be like to sit down with someone, perhaps a friend or even a complete stranger? And as they share, we really listened? What if we heard the words they were speaking, watched their body language, felt their energy? What if this communication were not about judging what was being shared – but coming to understand the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of the other person?

What if you knew you would not be attacked or belittled for having an opinion that is different from someone else? What if you trusted that the person you were speaking with actually cared about how you feel? What if you knew they were interested in why you think the way you do? What if it mattered just because you matter?

If you knew that someone you were sitting down with was hearing your heart; endeavoring to understand what you are thinking and feeling, would it change your desire and willingness to share?

Would bonds form or be reinforced if we knew that others were listening not with the intention of showing us how foolish or wrong we are, or even to agree that we are rather brilliant? But rather listening to come to know us better. What if we set aside the judgment and instead intended to understand one another? What if we invited empathy into the conversation? What if we discover and relish that this is the basis for true connection.

What if…just for today, we really listened?

Namaste,                                                                                                                                                                                          Sandy

 

 

 

Expressing Thoughts and Feelings – Not a Competition

It happens quite often. Someone will be telling about a loss, a worry or fear and another will say something like ‘at least you are not going through what I am’. Pretty effectively causing the first person to feel that they have no right to feel what they do or to express that feeling. To which I respond, ‘ugh!!!!’

If feelings and emotions are not good or bad, and for the record, I agree with that notion, then why is it so often than the one-up game is played? I suspect that there are various reasons why this happens, and since I’m in the mood to share I’ll do so.

Fear of being left out. Ohhhh, that feels like it a hit on the nail head. After all, if you tell me that your childhood pet has died. This pet is the one who comforted you while you went through a tornado,  stayed by your side through illness and licked your face when your friends ignored you; I might feel that I simply have no business sharing the fact that I’m feeling really sad for no discernible reason at all. Would it be possible that I need to share what I feel but that since I don’t think my feelings measure up to yours that I can’t do it? That might make me feel left out. Is there an alternative?

How about the thought that if I’m not in more pain, sadder, angrier, more helpless or alternately if I’m not experiencing more joy, happiness, absolute bliss that I’m moving through some situation wrong? In other words, if I measure my feelings, thoughts and emotions against yours and mine are not as big, then perhaps I’m not a caring, loving, worthy person. Yikes!

If we talk about what you think or feel than its entirely possible that everything won’t be about me! That simply cannot happen, because if the focus is not on me all the time, perhaps I’ll cease to exist in some manner.

Now, these are just a few thoughts that occur to me, but they all feel like they have a bit of truth to them.  You go through stuff in your life, so do I. In fact, we all do, it’s the human experience. Some of this stuff is fabulous, some okay, some not so good and some is truly dreadful. You naturally have thoughts, ideas, and feelings about what is happening in your life. That’s the way life works.

Are you ready for an example? My youngest son died in December 2010. My other two incredible sons live quite a distance from home. One evening I was feeling a bit low. I hadn’t slept the night before, so I was tired and grumpy in general. Hubby was at work so I had time to myself. I spoke to each of my boys on the phone during the day and enjoyed it. However, by that evening I was incredibly tired, and simply missed all three of my boys. I shared this with a good friend of mine (who is an amazing lady) and her response set me to thinking about this entire process. She apologized for sharing her own feelings of missing a child who has moved away from home. Why is that? She misses that person very much and I’m honored and privileged that she shares those feelings with me. I pray that I am supportive of her. Are her feelings any less valid because her experience is different than mine? I don’t think so.

For my money, it’s okay to experience a situation along with someone else and to respond differently. Not only is it okay, it’s inevitable. It doesn’t make us any less loving or caring individuals if we respond differently than someone else to any given situation.  We’re simply different people responding in our personal ways. Not better. Not worse. Just individual.

Feelings and emotions are not good or bad, they simply are feelings and emotions. My hope is that when we talk with friends and loved ones that we do feel it is safe to share. The key word here is ‘share’. If we can listen and appreciate that there is great value in hearing what is being expressed perhaps we can release the need to compete. Trusting that we offer great value regardless of whether we are sharing or listening.

I have a challenge this week. Accept it if you choose, but for me, I’m going to give it a whirl. The challenge is not only to listen but to really hear what is being said to me. Without judgment. Without feeling as though I need to top it to be of value. I wonder how it will change how I feel about the people I’m listening to. I wonder if it might change the way they feel about me. Learning and growing friends, not competing. Just living, learning and growing.

Namaste,

Sandy

 

You are an Energy Super Hero

I was reminded by a wonderful gentleman the other day of the power we have over one another. Pull out your superhero cape; you’ve got the power too.

 

Did you ever go into a room and know that something very unpleasant was going on, even before anyone said a word? Perhaps the room felt tense or just generally unwelcoming as you entered. You were feeling the energy of at least one person in that room, possibly that of everyone in that room.

Alternately, do you know someone who just makes you feel silly happy to see them? Most of us know at least one person like that; we are truly blessed if we know many. These people share their loving energy as naturally as you and I breathe.

Sounds like superpowers to me. You have this power as well. Experiment a bit if you don’t believe me. Go into a room and smile; deliberately think of sharing loving ‘vibes’. Most likely you will quickly notice that others are smiling back. Probably approaching you, offering hugs or handshakes. You are sharing your loving energy and infecting others with it. Wahoo!!! You are using your superpowers whether you are wearing the cape or not.

You do this innately. But here’s the cool part. Now that you are conscious of this ability, you can be very deliberate about it as well. Naturally, I encourage you to use this power for good, not evil.

Take a moment before you enter a room, answer a phone call or start a conversation. Consciously align your thoughts to the vibes you want to give out. If you want to be cheery, recall a happy thought, notice that feeling, intend to share that energy with those you are about to speak with and put a big smile on your face. It will come through loud and clear. If it’s your intention to spread calm, take a few deep breaths; remember a place or occasion that made you feel calm and content. Hold on to this feeling and intend to share it with others. You’re on!

The gentleman that I spoke about earlier has come to realize this power in a very profound way. I applaud him for recognizing and wanting to share this with others. He now makes a very conscious point of starting conversations with a smile and asking for the other person to share something good that has happened to them today. I love that! He’s automatically releasing any thoughts or feelings of negativity, asking for and giving thoughts of happiness or joy. He’s not only feeding his own sense and feeling of well-being, but he is sharing that same gift with others at the same time. Well done my friend!

This awareness strikes me on all levels, particularly professionally. As a Reiki master, I always encourage my clients to deliberately release any negativity they no longer need and to allow themselves to accept positive energy as they are ready. As a Reiki teacher, I encourage my students to develop awareness of their own energy so that they offer only healthy, positive energy to others as much as possible. Of course, any of my holistic life coaching clients hear the same thing. These energy shifts may be subtle, but they influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Powerful stuff.

I encourage you to consciously put on your cape every day. Take a few moments to think about what you would like to project to others as well as what you hope to receive from your interaction with others. See what happens. Make a few mental notes, and notice that the more deliberate you are about sharing love, compassion and joy the more you receive of the same. I’m willing to bet that you will very soon realize just how much you are able to positively influence the outcome of every situation. Intend to share, focus on those thoughts and feelings, notice the results, offer gratitude and begin the process all over again.

Try this for a day or two, I bet you’ll be hooked. I hope so. Then go on, share the secret with someone else. You’ll be giving them their very own superhero cape.

Namaste,

Sandy