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

Top Ten Steps for Grief

Ten Actionable Steps Through Grief

Grief is work. Moving through grief means taking the necessary steps to reclaim your changed life in its new formation.

I didn’t wake up the day after my husband Dave died and know which way to go, who I was or what the next days, weeks and months would bring. I was sick, tired and broken. I was alone. Because I was knowledgeable about grief, hospice, and all the theories, the outside world could see me as strong and able. Ironically, that may have made me feel even more alone. But I was strong. I am strong. And it was difficult still. Read more

Navigating Grief Bucket List

Loss Inspires The Bucket List

Ah, the Bucket List.

This is the conversation among a couple of the Navigating Grief groups right now. The big looking-forward-to-make-something-wonderful-happen-because-I-appreciate-life-more these days list! For a list maker like me, why not? Travel seems to be the obvious and most sought after. But this week I realized a lot of my bucket list is about lifestyle.

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Medical Equipment Bank

Thurston County Medical Equipment Bank

Thurston County Medical Equipment Bank Fact Sheet

For information, please contact Mike Kelly at (360) 456-8810 or Rick Crawford at (360) 586-3590

The Medical Equipment Bank (MEB) was founded during the early 1980s by various workers in senior related programs acquiring used wheelchairs and other assist equipment. After gradually collecting these items they began building volume in their office corner and closets, so they began loaning the equipment to serve those in need. Today, MEB serves more than 4,680 people a year of all ages, loaning out much needed items free of charge.


We accept clean used, working, medical equipment and healthcare supplies.
See suggestion list on back.
NO medications are accepted.
NO pick-up or delivery.

How  to Prepare

Please make sure items are thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and in working condition.

Where to Deliver

Woodlawn Funeral Home Cemetery & Cremation
5930 Mullen Rd. SE, Lacey, WA 98503
Located in basement, entrance in back of building.

When Donations are Accepted

Monday, Wednesday & Saturday 10 -11 am
Closed All Major Holidays


Cash donations needed!
Mail to Medical Equipment Bank, c/o Senior News
112 East 4th Ave, Olympia, WA. 98501

Volunteers wanted!
Help during drop-off hours or repair and maintain equipment. Call (360) 456-8810

Suggested Items

Bath Benches
Transfer Benches
Shower Chairs
Tub Slider Systems
Grab Bars
Wall Mount
Bath Tub Edge
Toilet Accessories
Raised Toilet Seats
Toilet Safety Rails
Shower Accessories
Hand Held Shower
Diverter Valve
Active Daily Living Accessories
Hospital Beds
Home Style
Full Electric
Bed Accessories
Bed Mount Rails
Home Style Bed Handles

– Trapeze
– Bed Mount
– Free Standing
– Safe-T-Pole
Over Bed Table
Pressure Support Surfaces
Seat Lift Chairs
Patient Lifts
– Manual or Electric
Patient Room Active Daily Living Accessories
Blood Pressure Monitor
Dressing Aids
Threshold Ramps
Portable Ramps
Automatic Door Openers

Straight & Quad Care Medical Equipment
Folding Canes
–  Folding
– 4-Wheeled
Manual Wheelchairs
– Transport
– Lightweight
– Heavy Duty
Wheelchair Cushions & Backs
Sleep Therapy Equipment & Supplies
Oxygen Therapy Equipment & Supplies
Home Fill Systems
Portable Concentrators
Aerosol Therapy & Supplies

Medical supplies such as unopened packages of sterile gauze, syringes, adult disposable underpants, etc.

Questions? Please call the message line at (360) 456-8810 or visit the Medical Equipment Bank website here.


The Things of Navigating Grief

The Things of Grief

Pondering Spring Cleaning After Loss

It’s two years since my husband passed away and I still have his home office in a state of organized clutter.  Apparently, I have no reason to hurry through this task! I haven’t turned on his computer; I hate to think of how long that update would take. But I do go in there from time to time. I do move a few things around. Add some. Look for some. Take some away. He was a piler of papers and his desk still reflects that. I ran the house but his desk and office was his alone. I’m sure that has something to do with my lack of touching things.

I have months that I open the office door to peek in as walk by. I have months I keep it closed. I did moved his wingback chair to the Discover • Create • Share Center to bring his presence into the Navigating Grief   lending library. After all, he was a professor! That chair has its owns stories. The bedroom closet was cleaned long ago as I lost weight and replaced my wardrobe. For me, I didn’t like the daily reminder. Maybe you are more comforted by the clothes. Some of his Oxford shirts were made into quilt pillow for family holiday gifts. Some clothes have been moved into another closet. Some were donated.

The clearing of stuff is a process as much as grief is – a few steps at a time. But like grief, sometimes we must go all in and other days we can take tiny steps.

Gone, and Gone

The first thing I rid the house of after Dave died was the growing medical stuff. I had boxes of sterile gauze pads, bed liners, gloves, and more. We had bought gadgets to assist, support and make it all easier. As Dave became more ill, the supplies kept growing in seeming desperation to fix it all. As an avid recycler not only did I not want this around but I knew someone else could use the materials and things.

I was right. The Thurston County  Medical Equipment Bankis available free to anyone need to borrow or donate medical items. Clean, unopened consumable supplies are also collected and being distributed to organizations such as the new Olympia Amahora House – hospice without borders.

I also took all the medications (proper disposal is not in the trash or down the drain) and felt a need to get the pain killers out of the house – which can’t go back to medical facilities around here. It was not that I thought I’d take them, but I didn’t want the option or temptation. Safe and proper disposal was one of my run-around, do-something trying-to-be-productive-and-right early grief moments! I just wanted to clear the house of all the illness.  Yet, it was all we had known for such a long time, so even this created its own emptiness.


Keeping connected and honoring our loved ones long after loss is significant in the healing journey. I was very fortunate to be able to establish a lasting tribute to and for my husband Dave while he was alive. Shortly after going on hospice service and thus forced retirement from The Evergreen State College, I was able to convince him to put our long held plan for a scholarship fund in place. While the rest of us honor him and his teaching, he actually honored the memory of his mother since she was adamant about his educational pursuits. With matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation The David L Hitchens in Honor of Frances Marie Rasmussen Scholarship at TESC is now endowed. What was and is so healing is that we continue to grow the fund, he continues to teach, so to speak, and we were able to let his former students offer support and say goodbye while he was alive. Dave learned just how much he was loved and how his life mattered for generations of people.

Our family had an ideal situation for Dave’s legacy. We already had planned there would someday be a scholarship. He had months of foresight on his declining health. We had tremendous support and resources from family, friends, students and the TESC Foundation. We even had some amazing luck in receiving matching funds!

And it Continues

This month, one of Dave’s musician friends was digging through his accumulate memorabilia and came across an old tape. He asked me to transfer it for him onto DVD. It  is the 25th Anniversary concert of Snake Oil. Music and this band and all the people associated with it is a large component of Dave’s life and even death story. Snake Oil came to play at the major fundraiser for Dave’s scholarship in 2011.

It took me a couple of weeks to get to the project. As I dated the title slide for the DVD I noted  the concert was recorded February 15, 1997. Dave died February 15, 2012.

Since I had all my transfer equipment  and DVD making tools out, I decided to finally make some additional copies of the Family Album DVD shown at the memorial. These had been requested long ago! Of course, I watched and cried. And cried. And I looked a the title slide. March 25, 2012.  Exactly 2 years before. I was working on this day of March 25, 2014.

As long as I remain in this house the layers of things will pop up. And when I move, eventually, the memories and my heart will remain filled with the stories. The stuff ultimately is really not that important. Getting to what and when and how to do with it all still has its angst, bittersweet, and delicious ambiguity.

I am not alone in need. I still have my own rooms to clean out requiring a similar process!

Coming Up

Navigating Grief hosts educational workshops. Join us April 12 , 2014 for The Things of Grief: Spring Cleaning After Loss with Professional Organizer Elain Carroll, Habitat for Your Sanity and a Showcase of local artisans afterwards. Discover-Create-Share Center in Olympia.

Although this article is locally resourced,  your community is likely to have similar programs. Check your city or county waste and disposal programs, senior services agencies and arts organizations.


Grief mind body spirit

The Holistic Journey Through Grief

The work of grief is the work of life.  It is a holistic journey.

Mind. Body. Spirit.

Grief is universal. How far you walk along the grief journey is up to you as an individual. Superficially, grief is about accepting or assimilating the change of loss. Yes, that’s really big on its own! Grief is the transition. That’s often enough for most people: wrapping your heart and your mind around the emptiness. Yet, for many, the longing persists to understand more deeply about the loss that won’t go away.

Mind is one step of grief.

If standing in loss becomes your badge for life, grief becomes stuck and acknowledged, but not a journey. However, when you examine and share the heartbreak of loss and change, grief fades away to an often positive path that opens ahead.

Deeper work into grief is about the change, the transformation that occurs during the examination of that relationship for which you loved and lost, its impact on who you are today, how you operate in the world now and the so-called meaning of life. This is the topic of discussions, books, poetry, philosophers and movies since time began!

Examination comes from Reading. Writing. Thinking. Talking.

Body is one step of grief.

Transformation is about self-love. Understanding. Accepting not only the loss, but all the crevices of humans being. Grief comes in waves of feelings and memories for behaviors, regrets, gratitudes, criticisms, and all the other emotions. Grief is stored in the mind, body, and heart. Past, present and future collide.

Self-love appears in how we care for (or don’t care for) our body. Where does grief land in your body? And how much have you carried with you for long before this loss? Since mind and body are inextricably woven, loving attention to your mental or physical health will elevate both.

Feeling means to Listen. Breathe. Notice. Release.

Spirit is one step of grief.

Even deeper comes the ultimate work that falls under the heading of faith, meditation, spirituality, God.

What happens after one dies and how you stay connected to your loved one cannot be ignored. Religion, God, The Universe, Life Force, Afterlife… in grief, one critical component is to confront your deep held beliefs. Do your beliefs match up to the feelings and thoughts of your grief experience right now?

How can you look at loss without questions about the afterlife? It is impossible. Not having answers for one’s self about spirit can be an area of stuck grief. What you know to be “right” is deeply and profoundly personal. Whether through religions, rituals, traditions, or philosophy, you will meet this path on the grief journey. You may not be able to articulate or explain this part of your journey fully as the spiritual path is not necessarily an intellectual exercise.

Experience the stillness of Being. Knowing. Embracing. Expanding.

Mind. Body. Spirit.

Nobody wants to hear that grief is work. Who willingly takes on such potential angst, examination and pain? Yet, all your angst, examination and pain are already inherent in the process of your loss that is known as grief.  Choosing to discover what you need to know about grief consciously will make the process have purpose and create meaning out of loss and propel you forward into your best life. Death is a catalyst of change thrust upon you.

The order and aspect for your Mind-Body-Spirit work of grief —what makes itself known to you— varies. If you come to your loss with deep faith, this may sustain you, or could rock your world when you question the unfairness of loss. If your health has degraded significantly, your first step may be to acknowledge your own bodily needs for living. Perhaps you are someone who feels so much, you can’t even think about the loss, much less assimilate the very real changes happening around you. Grief is individual.

Work is a dirty four letter word. We reject it. We avoid it. We love to hate it. But when you think about it, work brings accomplishment, self-esteem, value and even community into our lives.

We do get through grief when we work at it, consciously. Grief doesn’t resolve on its own no matter how much time passes. You never forget the loss, the person for whom you mourn. Getting through is never about forgetting; the other side of grief is inclusive. Feeling great is not a betrayal, but a testament to love: The love for the one you miss and the love that was given to you.

Grief isn’t easy. Grief isn’t pretty.  But neither is what you are experiencing right now. As you choose to “do something” about your grief, which is your work, you walk your path to a new wholeness. Your definition for how you are whole is likely to change. But it may surprise you to find that on the other side of grief you have become more through loss rather than become less when Navigating Grief.