‘Why’ has been Visiting

I’ve been going through some old writings, reviewing and in some ways even reliving what my journey has been up to this point. When I came across the message below, it felt important to share. As I read my own words, I became aware in a new way that I had, in fact, personified the question that swirls within the minds of most who have lost someone to suicide. ‘Why?’

You see, we all walk this path one step at a time. Each and every breath, every thought and experience is part of our very personal grief journey. For some perspective on my journey, this message was written 3 years after my son Mike died. 

The time since we got the news until today has not revealed a reason for this decision. There are those who swear that only one who is mentally ill would take their life, and perhaps that’s so, but even hindsight doesn’t provide that clarity.

I would guess that there are fewer than a handful of times since Mike died that I have gone to bed without asking him why…why did he choose to leave this planet, this life with the people he loved and who loved him so much. Today, I still have no answers.

Mike loved his job, no one there had a clue. He had terrific friends, they were all totally blind-sided by his suicide. Mike spoke to each of his elder brothers as well as his sister-in-law a few times a week, no one could have been more surprised. He lived the last year of his life back at home with my husband and me, we are still unable to answer this question. Was he depressed? Was there something going on in his life that has yet to come to light? Was he physically in distress? Was he just “done”  with this life and ready to explore the next? I have all of these questions and so many more.

The question of Why has been with me since 4 am on December 18, 2010. Sometimes I’ve been haunted by Why. Other times Why has simply lingered around the edges of my world. Why is still there…not nearly as powerful or onerous as in the past…but still present. I almost have a visual of Why. A personification if you will. No longer terrifying or crushing, it’s much more gentle now. Just sort of hanging around. Not a threat in any way. At one time Why brought along with it recriminations for not knowing ahead of time that this could or would happen. All of that has eased and I think gone away, at least for the most part. Now, Why is simply a visitor, just there.

Others know why their loved one chose to die, I pray that knowledge helps them to heal. Still, I suspect that if I knew the answer to this lingering question that there would be another in its place. I certainly know that grief and healing is no easier for those who know the answer to that question, their grief is just a bit different than mine.

The presence of Why will ease, it always does, at least for me. In what may seem a strange way, I think I’m making friends with Why. I’m learning to be more forgiving of myself and others, knowing in a most profound way that we seldom really know what is in the mind and heart of another. Why is helping me to understand and be more at ease.

One step at a time, one breath at a time. We walk this journey of grief into healing together. For me, Why is a companion in this journey with whom I am becoming more and more comfortable.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

Understanding

Guest blog by Jan McDaniel

Information brings knowledge, knowledge brings understanding, and understanding brings peace. While it is not possible to understand everything about the complexities of suicide, it helps to know the following.

  • Suicide crosses all boundaries: age race, gender, beliefs, cultures, economic status, and social standing.
  • Stress, medications, and other things can cause physical changes in the brain, resulting in distorted thoughts, hallucinations, and/or a breakdown in logic and reasoning capabilities.
  • Most suicides are related to mental illness or behavior disorders, but some are not. Other things, like impaired impulse control, addictions, and physical illness, can play a part.
  • When hope dies, a person feels there is no reason to live, no matter how many people love him or her or how much support is available.
  • Often, thoughts are only of escaping mental anguish.  If family and friends are thought of at all, these thoughts may focus on death as a way to relieve loved ones of the burden of dealing with the person in pain.

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.

 

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

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

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

Grief – Life is Changed, but Still Beautiful

Somehow I doubt that any of us would choose to be walking the path through grief and into healing. Still, life happens. More correctly, I should say that death happens. And there we are, smack dab in the middle of that path. Knowing that no matter how much we might want to, it’s simply impossible to take steps back to the time that the one we love was with us. And so we must move forward.

Today I was looking at one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry. A gift from my son Mike, quite a long time after he moved to The Other Side. It’s a fun story and I’ll be sure to share it with you another time. For now, I ask you to notice the necklace that I’m wearing in the picture. That’s the one! It’s not an expensive piece of jewelry, but because it is something tangible from one of my sons, it’s very precious to me. Each and every time I wear it, I feel as though Mike is smiling.

As I said, today I was looking at the necklace. I noticed that the color was changing and despite my efforts to clean it, there was no discernable improvement. So, off I went to the jewelry in downtown Burlington. The kind man behind the counter took a look at it and then smiled at me. He certainly knew that it wasn’t a piece of ‘fine jewelry’ by most standards but after a few words he realized it was something I prized very highly.

After a few moments of friendly chit-chat, he told the original color and shine simply could not be restored. This was a piece made of copper with a thin coat of plating. That plating was wearing off and could not be replaced. At first, I was disappointed, feeling a sense of loss. But then he said something that was just what I needed to hear. He said that in time, most likely a very short time because I wear this necklace quite a lot, all of the silver colored plating will be gone and it will be beautiful with the copper showing. He called it evolution. I loved that!

As I left the store I thought about how well this symbolizes our journey. The necklace has been something I prized as a tangible connection to my boy. It doesn’t look the same as it did several years ago – but the looks are all that is changed. The necklace is still a connection of love. It always was. It always will be.

And so we continue to take our steps, walking this path. No, it doesn’t look quite the same as it did when I took those first steps. It’s not what I expected so many years ago before I even imagined what grieving or healing might be like. It’s changing, but then again, so am I. It’s okay to notice, acknowledge and even to celebrate those changes because they are healthy and they are mine.

As I write this post, I find that I am really quite pleased with the look of that special necklace now. Like me, it’s lost some of its original shine. It’s now a much more interesting piece, as some color is wearing off and new ones are showing up, I feel as though it is really deep resilience that is showing through. A new sort of beautiful and I am so grateful.

Namaste,
Sandy

Grief – What IS Grief?


What is grief? Grief is the feeling that we experience when we have a loss. Deep sorrow and hurt. It may be accompanied by shock, lack of focus, loss of energy, feelings of overwhelm. We quite naturally think about feelings of grief when we experience loss of a loved one to death. It’s important to be aware that many other experiences in our lives can bring on the feeling of grief.

  • Divorce
  • Loss of job/career
  • Loss of home
  • End of friendship or other caring relationship
  • Saying goodbye to a beloved pet
  • Financial or economic loss

There are of course many other experiences which can bring about feelings of grief, I think you get the idea.

All of these experiences matter and deserve our attention. At some point in our lives, we are all likely to experience grief in one form or another. While grief due to loss can deeply hurt, it is absolutely possible to grieve or mourn in safe healthy ways which support your healing.

This is important, so I’m going to repeat it.

Feeling deep sorrow and pain after loss results in grief, but that grief CAN evolve, transition and heal. You do not need to feel deep pain every day, all day long for the rest of your life. Healing is possible. And I believe that healing is quite natural.

As I focus on coaching clients through grief, I am particularly focused on those who are grieving the death of a loved one. Grief is NOT a life sentence. Our relationship with our loved one can continue, in a new way to be sure, but it does not need to end with that last breath.

I’ve heard it said many times that we don’t get over a loss. I simply disagree, I believe it is possible. I believe that I have healed from several losses. Each and every one of these people remains in my heart today and always will. However, I no longer feel the deep pain when I think of them. Today I feel love and appreciation for having them in my life.

This didn’t happen in the blink of an eye, but it did happen. And I am deeply grateful.

Are you ready to transition your relationship with the one you have lost? Are you ready to begin healing your pain and grief?

I’m ready when you are. Let’s begin today.

Namaste,
Sandy