The posts by Navigating Grief founder Joan Hitchens including her personal journal written throughout the caregiving months for her husband Dave.

Paradise Ridge Winery CA Love

Sustainability of Happiness

Once again, at least for my moda operandi in life and work, I have written half a dozen stories in my head and I sit here with a whole new thought to share!

Having just returned from time with my ailing 89 year-old stepfather at the side of his hospital bed in the apartment I last saw my mother alive… Well, you can imagine ghosts of grief rattling around my thoughts. The time was more palatable than painful. I felt the aching reminiscent of caring for Dave, unanswered questions for my mother, wonder and awe for what lies ahead for my stepdad, and also delightful memories all rolled into one long weekend.  Yet, I want to focus on what is ahead. The HOPEHang On Possibilities Exist – is the future view I prefer to reside. Read more

Navigating Grief Christmas 2017 breakfastmorning

Afterwords to Christmas Grief

We are almost through the always tough holiday season that begins at Halloween into a New Year.

I’m sharing my Christmas morning breakfast table… Leftover sushi and fried eggs. Empty chairs. My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree is the only decoration in the house, finally brought off the shelf a few days earlier, two branches fallen to wear and age. My daughter Leah and I purchased it for the master bedroom the last Christmas of Dave’s life in 2011. The little brown paper gift bag seems to spill its dark emptiness, the exchanged packaging for my annual donation to Dave’s legacy in scholarship endowment and bench at the The Evergreen State College. The snow not seen outside the window – the White Christmas – is not my dream, nor is it particularly delightful to me! Read more

2017 Year: Return to Self

I am a relentless optimist. Perhaps this is one reason I am comfortable with bereavement. After devastating circumstances and change I believe and know life can be full of love, hope and peace. My reality is that I am emotionally stronger and healthier and more confident than when those I have loved greatly were alive. I appreciate this may be impossible to comprehend and may reverberates as “I can never” in your own mind and body. It’s unimaginable in early, raw grief. It seems like betrayal. This is why I stand in hope and offer a future vision of life after deaths! Grief and loss have taught me. Healing is about rectifying the lessons underneath the pain. My summary concludes that the message is always love and your healing heals me.

During the last ten years professionally I’ve come into my own evolution and thoughts on how to move forward with loss and which tools can help through grieving. I recognize the important whole journey through body, mind and beliefs for adjusting to the transition after loss – Navigating Grief and the longer, deeper transformation into Who am I now? I call Circling Life
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Growth through Grief

I am really glad to be past the third anniversary of my husband’s death. February 15. I held to my personal promise for a get-away. It was no Costa Rica nor Hawaii this time. I headed to the Washington coast beach just an hour away and for only a couple of days. I was extraordinarily fortunate to have sunny 60 degree weather, which meant barefoot walks along the water’s edge. I’ve certainly endured worse weather in June on Washington beaches! Read more

retro valentine

Those Valentine Hearts? It’s Not Personal

“This is a day to write smiles, kindness, empathy and hope on the walls of life.”  ~Jean Tubridy

It’s not personal. Really. All those red hearts, candy sentiments and images of perfect love are not meant to push you into more grief. They are world symbols evolved from traditions, stories, and religious celebrations into the romanticized Hallmark and bejeweled occasion we recognize today. Valentine’s Day has become an easy reason to openly and directly show love, beginning with traditions shared with our youngest children, parent to child and friend to friend.

 “The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers ‘as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart’, as well as to children, in order to ward off Saint Valentine’s Malady. Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.”      ~Wikipedia

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Thanksgiving Doorway

Looking Backward

Nothing like an annual event to bring out the reminders of loss! Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and personally special dates are notorious for setting up a grief reaction from melancholy to grief tsunami.

My husband Dave was an historian. He was a professor at The Evergreen State College. One of his programs was named Looking Backward. Traditions are carried forth through looking backward.

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Greif Reflection Hawaii sunset

Grief Connected to Lint!

When someone dies, they are never really gone. Dave appears to me in odd ways. Occasionally, in dreams (much less frequently now). Sometimes in unexpected short bursts of crying over releasing one more thing – emotionally or physically. And, most often in those funny little stories that pop up.

I was moving the load of laundry from washer to drier and there he was. In the mess of Kleenex left in a pocket of my jeans. You know, those fuzzy bits and pieces that cling to the denim or sweatshirt? And it is always in the “dark” wash load. Oh, yeah. reminders of past.  Back to school, Teacherman! Fall. Colds. Germy students. Wads of lint.

Damn. I forget to check the pockets! Back through the seasonal cycle of life, and, yep, loss.

But this time it was me. I was sick with that respiratory virus going around here for the last couple of weeks. I stuffed tissues in my pockets. And I forgot to check my clothes before I started the wash. Just me. I was the only one who could have done this now.

But there he was, in my memory of doing his laundry. And I had to laugh. Because what I remember is he always carried a paper towel for his wipes, not tissue. Who does that? Dave did! How painful on my delicate features to even think about, but clearly he was a tough man! LOL. In the torn up shreds dotting my lint catcher are moments of my past life. And a silly little quirk of Dave.

I don’t forget because this is in my cellular make up now. He is in my being. My pleasure and pain centers of the brain. My “I am” of today. I don’t forget – from Princess, the dog of my childhood, to Buckaroo and Lucky, or my grandparents, my dad, or the even tragic loss of a schoolmate. So why would I try to deny these funny little stories that gave my husband life? I cherish them. I don’t have to be drawn backwards into them. I acknowledge the ways they are within me today. I carry it all forward on this continued path.

A year and two ago the laundry story may, well, would have, brought tears along with the laughter. Today, I can measure the separation of living in the “we” of past into “me” of present mind through my current responses. I am very comfortable and comforted these days in my memories.  This sense of well-being and memory is a sign of being on the other side from grief without denying my loss.

Yet, I too, still have some work to do. I am ready to complete another step of separation and give Dave a resting pace of his own. There are still most of his cremains here at home. I am finally getting around to place his remains in a memorial garden for visitations by family, friends and students. This isn’t anything I was really putting off or feeling big concern to do. It is just easy to not do! I wasn’t in a hurry, and I am not particularly now. It will still take a bit of time to get all the logistics taken care of. I just know this is the right time for me and maybe importantly for others.  I know he’ll like this. He6’ll still appear in my  stories and memories of lint, but in this step I can also go visit as I feel the need.

Ok, here come a few tears…

 

Widow not an anniversary

Not The Anniversary

September 11.

Remembered by most for the tragic terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Center and Pentagon. Ugh.

Remembered by me as my wedding anniversary. Read more