Share stories are all the guest posts, Navigating Grief community articles and information related to social grief.

The Photo Story. Revisited

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10. 
 
Photo memories are so important in our healing processes. This one popped up in my Facebook feed last week. My mother died in February 2015. This photo was taken three years later after her husband died, my step-father, and I was visiting for the service and the subsequent dispersal and moving of the estate “stuff.” I ended up with another shelf of boxes in my garage! The revisit to her death seemed to become completed in the death of her husband and their relationship. The revisit to the memory of two deaths in one photo was what happened when that FB memory returned. It is so timely to Mother’s Day!
 
Holidays and traditions and anniversaries… This is where grief resides. It is one of the universal Influencers on crossing your grief bridge. The shift from a painful reminder into a softer more nostalgic and loving memory is how we go from Coping with Loss into Being with Loss. This is how time can affect the outcome.
 
Mother’s Day is one of those memory lane trips or trip-ups. It is easy for me to sit in the nostalgia since my mother’s death five years ago. I have an honorary camelia in my backyard. I have gone through those boxes and found place for the keepsakes. I have become a grandmother and have a new relationship in my memories for her as grandmother. And even in the death of her husband, I was gifted with new healing conversations which came forth through that shared grief. This is an example of the longer walk with grief in life’s journey.
 
But Mothers Day’s is not all rosy and can be very different for many people in grief.  
  • There is the grief of being a mother without her child. There is no nostalgia for the what-could-have-been; only the ache of longing.
  • There can be the grief of unhealed and unfinished relationships as much as profound loss in a deeply loved and mutual relationship.
  • There are the reminders of one more – day, week, year – without. The reminder of an unavoidable and unrequested change.
The Photo Story is a great writing prompt for your memories. Choose a photo and create the narrative to go with it: Storytelling, feelings, reaction, caption. It can be long or short. Allow whatever comes up to show itself. You can lean into the unveiling. You might also try Revisiting Your Photo Story, as I have done here because it came up via a Facebook memory. You might see a few of your own On This Day memories unexpectedly. It isn’t always FB or social media. Often these memories find us through other synchronistic means. If you stumble into one of these memories, you can take an opportunity to invite her in, tell her what you’ve come to learn or know since you last met. Be nostalgic in softening of your pain as you hold onto the lesson of love.

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Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10. 
 
Photo memories are so important in our healing processes. This one popped up in my Facebook feed last week. My mother died in February 2015. This photo was taken three years later after her husband died, my step-father, and I was visiting for the service and the subsequent dispersal and moving of the estate “stuff.” I ended up with another shelf of boxes in my garage! The revisit to her death seemed to become completed in the death of her husband and their relationship. The revisit to the memory of two deaths in one photo was what happened when that FB memory returned. It is so timely to Mother’s Day!
 
Holidays and traditions and anniversaries… This is where grief resides. It is one of the universal Influencers on crossing your grief bridge. The shift from a painful reminder into a softer more nostalgic and loving memory is how we go from Coping with Loss into Being with Loss. This is how time can affect the outcome.
 
Mother’s Day is one of those memory lane trips or trip-ups. It is easy for me to sit in the nostalgia since my mother’s death five years ago. I have an honorary camelia in my backyard. I have gone through those boxes and found place for the keepsakes. I have become a grandmother and have a new relationship in my memories for her as grandmother. And even in the death of her husband, I was gifted with new healing conversations which came forth through that shared grief. This is an example of the longer walk with grief in life’s journey.
 
But Mothers Day’s is not all rosy and can be very different for many people in grief.  
  • There is the grief of being a mother without her child. There is no nostalgia for the what-could-have-been; only the ache of longing.
  • There can be the grief of unhealed and unfinished relationships as much as profound loss in a deeply loved and mutual relationship.
  • There are the reminders of one more – day, week, year – without. The reminder of an unavoidable and unrequested change.
The Photo Story is a great writing prompt for your memories. Choose a photo and create the narrative to go with it: Storytelling, feelings, reaction, caption. It can be long or short. Allow whatever comes up to show itself. You can lean into the unveiling. You might also try Revisiting Your Photo Story, as I have done here because it came up via a Facebook memory. You might see a few of your own On This Day memories unexpectedly. It isn’t always FB or social media. Often these memories find us through other synchronistic means. If you stumble into one of these memories, you can take an opportunity to invite her in, tell her what you’ve come to learn or know since you last met. Be nostalgic in softening of your pain as you hold onto the lesson of love.

Read more

grief journal review

Why I Keep a Grief Journal

April 23, 2020 New Moon in Taurus

Eight years later, for me. Here we all are – isolated together in a mist of Coronavirus 19.

Since December, I have been in a sweeping reconstruction for how I offer my grief and energy coaching practices. All I understand is being gathered into a new format – not the book I set upon (incremental progress) but into a new website presentation. The current site is broken and a mess underneath, and this new place – like moving into a new home – will be a fresh start. Navigating Grief is moving virtually as we speak! I am updating, cleaning up and transferring all of my website, electronic communications and adding content. In tandem, I excitedly return to group work with a hybrid online and virtual course for Start Here Now. This is full circle around the expanding spiral on my journey, now accessible in a new generation of technology and connectivity. If you find household moves are daunting, try the digital assets of home and office! Over ten years in the making…

I am once again between the breaths of what I thought would happen and how it unfolds. Between is such an operative word for me! Of course, between is the walkway of the metaphoric bridge I love so much. Chaos and creativity, in the words of transition expert William Bridges.

My home office has become the 2.0 version of Discover Create Share Center in a private re-configuration of the three-room business suite I opened in 2013. This morning as I rearranged some of the last stuff of books, journals and history I stumbled onto the earliest of my grief journal entries. The first phrase that popped up is “Note – Profoundly personal.” Then a few pages later, I find a dream written just days after my husband’s death.

The Set Up: My husband Dave dies February 15, 2012. He had been on hospice care service for lung cancer one week short of a full year. His illness forced his retirement as a College professor.

In December of 2011, as my husband lay dying, in a preemptive move of impending separation and in service to my own future, I enrolled in a life coaching program to augment my skills of an online client writing platform. This was my original course delivery for the Storybooks for Healing / Grief Reflection program, which later evolved into my signature Start Here Now. The system I used at that time was developed for life coaches so I thought it would be useful to understand this professional perspective. I was curious. What I found in coaching – I continued courses until credentialed – was an education that deeply aligned and furthered my instincts for guiding others through grief, and more importantly life. Unbeknownst then, this was the start of my many educational and experiential programs for professional, personal and spiritual growth ever since. Even this morning I signed up for a much-awaited Crystal Ally Card Master Reading Class! Never in my predictions…

Of note for reading this journal entry to follow, I was also a former hospice respite volunteer. Dave and I were featured in a video that supported our local hospice organization during his end-of-life care. We met with the social worker Jennifer and other hospice organization folk often.

When Dave was diagnosed in 2010 with terminal cancer, I began writing in earnest, for both personal cathartic insight and to “walk the talk” of grief and loss. Over the years, my journal writing can wax and wane, but in every time of need to hear my heart, I always return to the pen. What I want you to know is that writing is an extremely important instrument of insight, hindsight and even foresight. Please. Keep a journal. No matter how tiny or random the thought may seem in the moment. They often show up as amazing finds of synchronicity and messages we yearn to feel and hear forever.

Private journal entry: Monday, February 20, 2012

I had a dream that Dave is still alive – Here’s what I remember:

Dave was going to teach. He was thin, his hair thin and dirty. He needed to bathe. He had to go to College one more day, one more class. Just to see his students.

I helped him, but was not happy for him to go to class. I knew he was not up for it physically. I tried to make him presentable for this day. He wasn’t going to shower. He’d just be there for this last class to tell them he won’t be back. Last thing to do. (He’s at the College – makes me cry.)

I had to meet with the professionals. There is a policeman in the dream somewhere – I just remember the uniform.

Meeting w/ pros – I explained that I saw I spoke w/ Dave, he was going back to College one more time. It didn’t matter if he was dressed up. It would be OK.

I knew he died and didn’t understand how he got back here to go to class again. It wasn’t making sense and I had to get help to know if this is right.

I had a call to talk about Dave’s return. I’d be turned over to a social worker to sort it out. Jennifer wasn’t available but there were other who could listen.

I was at the building for my appointment talking with someone – all were women counselors. There was a lot about who could help me – which person and what type of person – social worker came up most.

I told my story – knowing that Dave had died last week but that he came back for a day to work. Could that happen I wondered? Was I crazy to know better yet still be visited?

We had to go to a different building to talk. This person and I drive the short distance. It was rainy.

I had to go back and forth between buildings. Sometimes by myself, remembering the steps and hallways. I was driven back to the first building and had to go through 3 buildings from the interior to get back to the counselor.

I often tried to sort through the counselor’s credentials and relationship. I need validation about this. (Wow! My career??)

I explained again that Dave came home and readied for his last class. She listened and asked if I thought he could be back. Was I sure he was dead? I said yes, he was at the crematorium, so I knew he died, but it was so real he was here again.

I had a last walk between the buildings. There was a set of stairs – shallow and riser-type / open on the bottom. A woman was rolling almost slithering among them.

Do you need help I asked hurriedly? Yes, came the answer. I yelled for help – many times. Help, help! People came from everywhere, all around. The woman had rolled under the stairwell and back around to the other side. She was OK by the time others arrived.

I was questioned about whether this person needed help – was she in pain or not?

I knew she was. I called for help even though on the outside everything appeared all right. I knew that truth about her. It was genuine. But she is OK.

I was back at the office area for finishing up the appointment. The counselor was helping someone else – perhaps even a co-worker. She was receiving a massage from my counselor. She could see I really needed the support. What about my keys locked in the empty office? I wondered.

I have just one more question I said. Really, seeing Dave and believing he’s come back, even in the midst of knowing he has died / he is dead…. Is that (gesture quotation marks) “normal?”

Of course it is. Was the reassuring answer.

In this end of the dream I have an overwhelming sense that reminds me that I am not working alone. In fact, that I am leading some along. Also, that Dave really is with me –

There is also a dream part about writing a book.

What Dreams are Made of…

The 20/20 hindsight. Holy Moley! Did that just show itself, too! 2020? And the entry itself? 2/20/2012. So funny.

Perhaps you too can see this personal and professional journey foreshadowed, at least in how I interpret this dream today. This journal ghost seems to have come to remind me how universal grief and loss are timeless. I know its accuracy given the choices I make now as I re-commit to the first steps for Navigating Grief. We must sometimes go a long way around in order to come back a very short distance.

“I called for help even though on the outside everything appeared all right. I knew that truth about her. It was genuine. But she is OK.”

Is My Grief Normal? How Long Does Grief Take? How Do I Navigate Grief? These three unstated questions were posed and answered in this dream. The questions I am most asked after significant loss. They are the lead pages on my new website! They are fundamental Navigating Grief concepts developed in my early loss years in coaching, grief and widowhood. Along with that metaphorical bridge full of slats and The Other Side, like the stairwell in the dream. They are concepts which show themselves as universal truths. We will be OK.

The first coursework I am rolling out online is my group support for widows known affectionately as WOW – Wisdom of Widows. “Wow!!,” I wrote in the journal aside. “my career?” I love to coach for all losses so a decision to focus most of my energy on widows today has felt ambiguous to me. This dream indicates lots of women, so perhaps it is my clue of “the right path.” I am on target for a start date for late May, to be announced soon. As well, I am calling others forth to be guides to offer specific loss programs in the coming year on this universal program, too. And, I can meet everyone through private practice. I am excited to rekindle and carry this light forth.

We are experiencing incredibly trying times that shake our core beliefs, stir up every existential fear for ourselves and our loved ones, and even reaches a sense of compassion and gratitude for life, not seen globally before. Finally, it is time to come together. I hate that Coronavirus 19 is an instigator. But it is hard to deny what death does to us.

In my growth through widow’s grief, along with client services and additional losses (my mother, step-father and a brother have died since), I’ve come to a much bigger model for healing, meaning and purpose. You’ll find this on an upcoming page titled The Venn (not Zen) for Whole Being: Beliefs, Body, Mind. This is the area for Being with Loss and personal reidentification once the dark Coping with Loss zone is passed.

In 2017, as I immersed myself into a series of retreats on traditional and contemporary group teaching methods, I emerged with more creative writing and played with doodling journals. This is the intersection I have come to find as “personal grief and healing meet” to arrive at Grief in the World. I can’t think of any better phrase for what we are going through now than “Grief in the World.” I am rolling out more on this concept on the new website. In the meantime, I have written! So much still unpublished, unsaid, like the dream.

In late 2017, I penned a poem: What if. I’ll sign off here for you to ponder the first three questions:

What if death is a messenger of love and connection, not separation?
What if grief is calling to create individual meaning and purpose in life?
What if emptiness is a receptacle for filling?

(Navigating Grief newsletter. April 24, 2020)

Nine Years and a Day After Thanksgiving

Ah-Musing Starts Here

Nine years ago, I penned my first personal journal entry that was published as Grief Reflection and evolved into Navigating Grief. It was titled Thanksgiving Morning. The words arose from my pain and heart and gathering of story as I faced the diagnostic reality of my husband Dave’s terminal cancer.

One of the most important questions for me after his death, and I recognize today for a survivor, for a widow, is Who am I, Now? This often formulates loudly in year two or three, post death. The profound loneliness, the emptiness, turns inward for the long proverbial labyrinth walk to come to terms of Self, health, meaning and consciousness. Well, that’s my story. And a story of many women I’ve met in their widow’s journey. It is a story of people in general as well: Facing emptiness into Who am I, now? after the death of a loved one who helped define the sense of who one has been. It is the story of emptiness which is confronted in other griefs as well without regard for what might appear on the other side of loss. 

Nine Years

Four deaths – Significant deaths. Husband. Mother. Step-father. Brother. In that chronological order.

Two moves – Downsizing. Three years living in a “55+” rental community. Now I am mortgaged into an urban single-family home – single-person home. Ongoing revisions and major remodel, decluttering, purging, shifting, resizing, hanging on and letting go… An aging woman with two aging cats!

One business – Multiple evolutions as I opened and closed opportunities and methodologies to connect and grow individually, together and through my own development that is a life and business of Navigating Grief.

Four surgeries – A patch to cover the hole of a bone in my head; Replaced both hips with titanium; Medically endorsed eye lift so I can see more easily what is in right in front of me. Four times under the knife in nine years, confronting the will-I-wake-up anesthesia, and releasing control to the surgeon to help me make life feel better.

Countless studies –Certifications, workshops, books, retreats, travel, teaching, vulnerable calls with friends, tears—oh my all the tears, and learning anger. Pushing, pulling and stopping. Shaping, molding and reconfiguring. Questioning, doubting, trusting.

One incredible birth. A grandson.

Who am I, now? Who am I?

Evolving the Lessons

The ultimate lesson, message and inquiry is How do I love myself? And, then what? What does it matter — literally, matter? In between, I always ask my favorite lifetime question: What’s the point?

I see the connecting dots in this short list for what I am here to offer nine years and a day later after that Thanksgiving morning in 2010. This is my Model for Whole Being, illustrated in the common three circle picture of balance.

The Body (surgeries and physical care), and the Mind (educational activities) seek alignment in the intersection of environmental surrounding (home and health).

The Beliefs (Why do I still exist?) and the Mind (consciousness) seek alignment in the intersection of language via questioning the state of human and spiritual worlds. Who or what is real? Trying on truth (at least, someone’s truth). Overcoming the fear to have an opinion and saying it aloud.

The Beliefs (I know who I am) and the Body (actions) seek alignment in the intersection of energy to manifest results into creation for change, as the response to an event of change.

At its center, the Heart. Whole Being is by design to know, feel and think through a universal abundance into the heart’s resonance of life itself.    

For me this model inspires my walk forward with open eyes, in consciousness for what I believe might help change the environment for the betterment of humanity!  I know deeply in every cell that I am not alone on this path seeking whole being and being well and doing good. Which in design, means neither are you.

Beyond to a New Readiness

Nine years later on this Day after Thanks-Giving, I ready myself to talk the walk to Who I am, now, and who I might continue to discover. Its inception was profound and significant loss. I offer my Self in what manifests through conscious meaningful and purposeful action. I dare me to share my story for how the initiating death of my husband is the “breaking of the shell which encloses my understanding” for choosing life (Gibran). In this outward musing I share my understanding that we all, each of us, are here to seek and share the many messages of love.

I tell you that understanding must begin with focus on you first as you heal your personal inner wounds of your own pain and hurt when death, grief and loss forces your wake-up to familial connection and societal inequality. I invite you to walk your own path of healing with the understating and hope that it also heals me. 

This is a parallel moment from a Thanksgiving Grief Reflection nine years ago into some Ah-Musing notes, light-hearted reflections on being in life after significant loss. Surfacing henceforth is my latest evolution, Joan 2.0, coined as my brother and I fought for healing conversations through tiny text messaging and icons during the waning weeks prior to his death.

grief breakdown

Grief Breaks Down

“I thought,” she said passionately. “‘Mother f%*kr, I can’t even kill myself because my life insurance lapsed!'” Then we burst into laughter.

It was after one of those breaking points. We were talking about an incident of the week prior. We were on the phone, she lives hundreds of miles away from me, when she announced that her car had just died in the middle of the busy road. Now long time friends, we regularly peer coach and deep dive into life difficulties, too often in brutal honesty. Often in deep pains. Joyfully in witness to absurdity that is Circling Life.

I’ve witnessed and coached and shared her grief through her former husband’s suicide and a divorce and a move across the states. She has pushed and held me through my own unfolding to find my true self through grief, trauma, energy healing, and losses as I support others in the same. This wasn’t the first side-of-the-road cry. Yet, this was especially significant as a moment of one of her own coaching mantras: What if a breakdown is a breakthrough? In fear of financial lack and prospects as she changes career direction, (what, another change and transition and loss transpired from the origins of her grief journey?) the additional cost of car tow and repair is the proverbial straw on her camel that carries her. A call from the car center a bit later revealed her confession of a storm of tears and spewed anger in public breakdown shown up with all sorts of woulda, coulda, shoulda regrets and pain for a deceased ex-husband. If only… Plus, another $500 out the window.

Again?

Does it end or go away? Who deserves this? Apparently, in the midst, the thought arises that she “can’t even kill herself because the life insurance lapsed!” Thank goodness for being a responsible mother to her kids!

Accountability and sense of Responsibility* can often get us through the next few minutes. In between there is the moment of recognition that life is what happens now and those stories are old stories still in shift. They rise again. In between these two conversations was the call the day after as she explained she had came face-to-face with the visceral emptiness of being utterly alone regardless of my long supportive stand in knowing. Even though she has people and family in town whom to call. In spite of her being in the lobby of a car dealership. Grief pain is a soloist journey. It appears when when it does. The space between her own breaths. “I really got it,” she said in grounded quiet. “I got what you say about the space that is my own deep emptiness alone. That, in the void, no one is here with me except me.”

I get this, too!

I have a personal history of cars stopping when I am in anxiety! I left two vehicles on the road once-upon-a-crisis on my way to see my husband Dave in the hospital. I am never without AAA car rescue.

More and more I recognize the energetic distractions that arise from our own excess energy as car batteries, alternators (her situation), or starters suddenly cease. One is forced to slow down. To become present. To deal with what is now. To ask for help. Or decide to help yourself. To figure out the next step. And how to get there. To review what happened or learn from what occurred soon after. It requires compassion for self to turn around the lashing of blame or the feeling as a victim. Thoughts of “if only” magic is a story designed to make the pain disappear. Minds return to yesterday for want of safety and familiarity today, whether that life was real or true. We are all raised on fairy tales of “happily ever after” in a foggy notion for how happiness actually feels. Perhaps happiness is the message to love what is right in front of you.

Instead of an external break down of things around us, the stoppage can manifest as a lack of energy on the body that shows up as depression, exhaustion, caregiver fatigue, illness or thoughts to crawl into a hole and die. It is a different vehicle and usually the phenomenon is of a slowing down into a stop, almost imperceptible until there is an obvious cease of connection to the environment of people and places.

Either way, here we are…. the ask for help and how to create movement in life. Like the Type of Death*, which can be sudden or lingering, it influences what actions you make in response. Your type of break effects your perspective. Your brain will dictate to fight, flight or freeze.

Stop in the moment then look forward.

As a coach, I have multiple perspectives of grief gained through personal experiences, client care and academics. There are simple (not always easy) practices available to support our responses and growth through loss, what we tell our self and how we hear what others say. For me, the only place to start is to understand your Here. Whether you are standing in the middle of a dangerous median or need lifting out of the hole of despair, we can all use some safe perspective and guidance. For most, grief is a doable journey along life’s path. When ignored or procrastinated those paper straws build up and the burden can become a break of the camel’s back.

When grief and loss are acknowledged as ongoing human experiences that shape us, life returns to center more quickly. Even for those in those very difficult unexpected loss or the grief associated with a chosen change. Even when there are fleeting destructive thoughts. Back into movement and flow. Into a presence for life as you know now. Recovery. The other side.

These days, the buzz in media for grief and life is a trend to be resilient. Resilience is built upon applying examined experience. It makes sense then, if circumstances of life stops you in your track, you are being asked to examine the experience. Long enough to gather your energy.

* * *

A few days later… After words. The trouble wasn’t the alternator and it didn’t cost $500. The diagnosis was: “We can’t find anything. We don’t know what happened. Something shut down the program and it needed a full recalibration. $199.” Recalibration! No, I didn’t make this up! This story is shared with permission, laughter and love.

 

*Type of Death and Responsibility are two of ten initial Influencers for Navigating Grief. Influencers are identifiable universal aspects of loss and carry weight not judgment as you move through your individual grief. They can hinder or support you in grief and loss awareness. For example, Responsibilities in you life can get in the way, such as you have to work more hours to provide for the family and therefore put grief on the back burner. Responsibility can also be your saving grace as dedication to family or purpose though work helps keep you active, connecting, and out of the hole of depression. 

5 Minute Coach’s Corner: Metaphors of Break Down

Simple questions and metaphors to shine a light on “Who are you now?” after loss.

When the outside world is a mirror to your state of challenge what is the metaphor? New sciences are showing that thought and language are activators to move energy and create action into result. If true, then what happens to or around us can be a reflection of our state of being. Agree or not, the concept is interesting to apply as a metaphor of life.

  • In the story shared here what might it mean to you to have the car break down?
  • What might be the significance of a battery vs an alternator vs a starter as the metaphor?
  • Can you think of a time in your life when the inconvenience of something breaking or an interruption was perhaps a response to the situation at hand? It usually is prefaced with, it was not a good time for… to happen.
  • With hindsight, was the moment and the outcome different? How does the passage of time change the story?
  • In this scenario, what was thought to be an alternator turned out to be a need of re-calibration. What happened to the metaphor now?

Navigating Grief Newsletter. March 31, 2018

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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Griefland authors Bacon Miller

Book Review: Griefland

Griefland; Intimately Familiar.

“Rachel is dead. If I said it out loud, the reality of this would spill into the world, become part of the moon, the stars, the thread running across the floor, connecting all of us, connecting every person to some moment of shocking loss. It would be real.” ~Nancy Miller

Griefland is the place where you meet two women who “get it.” They ooze the pain of personal and painful loss in its raw form. They cling. They expunge through words in the moment. in the same breath, they hold the grief and loss forever. It is a story from heart and soul. Devastating. Intimate. Hopeful.

My husband used to describe meeting someone who really connected to the same point of view as “going to the same school together at different times.” Co-authors Nancy Miller and Armen Bacon went to the same school of loss together – the one that was the death of their daughter Rachel and son Alex respectively. Both died of a drug overdose. Both young and in the “should” have their-whole-life-ahead-of-them age. Four years apart. Same school, different time. Miller and Bacon went to the same school.

What struck me greatly about Griefland, An intimate portrait of love, loss and unlikely friendship, is that the school is grief. This grade is grouped by both the type of loss and the relationship. Like in a paired mentor program, their e-mails were the curriculum to explore, teach and learn from each other. From the experience, genuine friendship and love emerged.

I can relate to Miller’s and Bacon’s communiqués of loss as a widow even as I wept as a mother. I am in different classroom but of the same school.  As often as strong support comes in its greatest form through a common relationship loss, Griefland reaches out and touches in the universality of death’s aftermath: Chaos; Thoughts of the racing mind; Aches of the physical body; Questions for the confused spirit. Griefland honors their very personal stories and individual joy in remembering the personality of each child and the inability to fulfill the parent’s expectation for dying in order – parent before child.

The Portrait of Friendship is an important theme in Griefland, and in healing after loss in my opinion. The sharing aspect of what pain and grief feels like in the moment is a critical shift into life out of the death and grief.

“Death, in its devastation, has forced us to re-create ourselves. This rediscovery period is a passport to experience the world through a new lens. We have accepted the invitation.”

Miller and Bacon go on to offer the “gifts” found underneath the heavy dark, cloud of child loss. But like them, you must go through the story before you find yourself able to begin to accept the invitation of gifts.  Anyone suffering loss will find hope in the pages of Griefland. If you relate to the loss is of a child entering adulthood, you’ll ache deeply in sympathy for your own story. If your loss comes with guilt that you did something wrong you might find the words to be a little less harsh on yourself. Whatever the circumstances, how comforting to know you are not alone.

Coming up

Meet author Nancy Miller Griefland at Navigating Grief

 

Have you read Griefland, An intimate portrait of love, loss and unlikely friendship? Please share your comments.

Would you like to order your copy? Use the link to Amazon books to order today. Copies also available at Navigating Grief Discover Create Share Center after January 16.

 

 

Day of the Dead Dia de los Muertos

Wake up! It’s Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos Celebrates Life

Each year on November 1 and 2 a cultural traditional brings families together in a festival of honor. These are the Day of the Dead: Día de los Innocetes (innocents, children) and Día de los Muertos (deceased, adults).

The primarily Mexican and Latin American ritual is steeped in history. Décor, activities and feast reinforce that our loved ones are to be honored, remembered and remain spiritually alive. From its Pre-columbian roots, Day of the Dead rises from Aztec and Roman Catholic beliefs. Because it is an annual event, the ongoing ritual means death is more readily seen as a natural aspect of the life cycle.

“Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.” ~National Geographic

Households and communities may each have slightly differing traditions in their locale. Events might be held at the cemetery, community center or homes. But what is in common is that Día de los Muertos activities “encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them.” (Wikipedia). Sharing of stories, feast and offerings, grave and headstone upkeep are all part of the rituals that may go on for up to three days.

The cost for food, drink and offerings can be expensive for rural indigenous households.  Some families spend over two month’s earnings to honor their deceased. “They believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. Ofrenda [altar] building keeps the family close.” (Mexican Sugar Skull)

Here are some of the most often noted symbols and activities found at Día de los Muertos celebrations:

  • Ofrenda. (altars) Small, personal altars honoring one person. Ofrendas have flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person being remembered. Ofrendas often include religious statues and pictures. They can be very elaborate.
  • Marigolds.  It is thought the orange color of Mexican marigolds help attract the soul to the offering table. Buckets of flowers are left with the altar, or used to decorate the tables and displays.
  • Day of the Dead CatrinaOrchids. White orchids are the flower given in honor of children who have died. Día de los Innocetes may also be noted as Día de los Angelitos, Day of the Little Angels, on November 1, when the children are allowed to visit their families for 24 hours beginning midnight October 31.
  • Gifts. Food and gifts that the loved one enjoyed are part of the altar and festivities. This includes toys, trinkets and candies. Pillows and blankets may be left at the ofrenda so souls can rest after their long journey.  Tequilia and mezcal may be left for the adults. The food is for the souls, so although eaten by the living, it is thought to be devoid of nutritional value.
  • Catrinas. The popular dressed skeleton figure is highly associated with Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. The icon originated from a satirical etching by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, circa 1910. La Calavera Catrina (Elegant Skull) depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time.
  • Calavera (skull) Decorated sugar skulls  and chocolate skulls are also distinctly recognized on Día de los Muertos. The skull may be given as a gift to both living and dead. The recipient’s name is often inscribed on the forehead of the skull. The sweet candy is a balance to the bitterness of death.
  • Papel Picado. Hand cut paper banners have been traced back to the 18th century used for religious festivals to decorate the streets. Day of the Dead papel picado usually depict happy scenes (of skeletons) to embellish the surroundings.

Story is always at the heart of Día de los Muertos celebrations as family and friends write poems, share anecdotes, or even mocking epitaphs. Through laughter and joy, the symbols presented in this shared tradition honor the life of loved ones passed and even what the loved one loved about life. Today, Day of the Dead events are becoming community events beyond Mexico borders as a way to share heritage, culture and of course, honor the deceased loved ones of all ages. Check your local community calendars to see if you can join in this rich and inviting tradition.

 

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