Packing for the Grief Journey: Six Essential Items

FREE Road to HanaGrief is not a one-time event like a memorial service. Grief is more like a journey. It may be a rocky road full of unexpected detours, but it is a trek we all must take as we encounter various losses in our lives. When we know what to pack for this necessary trip we avoid getting stuck in a ditch. We are better prepared so that eventually we’ll get to the other side and experience healing. By healing I don’t mean that our grief will be “cured.” Grief is not an illness to be cured. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss.  We never “get over” our losses; we get through them and learn to live with them. We may get some scratches or a sunburn on our grief journey, but if we have the courage to travel this road, we will emerge healed from our wounds, left with scars that remain with us but don’t define us.  Read More

Four Funerals and A Wedding

FREE Funeral flowersMaybe it’s a sign of my age, but let’s just say I’ve been going to more funerals than weddings lately (weddings = 1, funerals = 4+). And that has me thinking about how we celebrate, commemorate, and ritualize major events in our lives.

We often spend a lot of time and money on weddings and birthday parties. We like to mark milestones in our lives by gathering friends and family, but somehow we forget about the importance of celebrating our life when we die. Margaret Mead once said, “When a person is born, we rejoice. When they are married, we celebrate. When they die, we pretend nothing happened.” Read More

Grief Frenemies

FREE Cat friendsI heard my daughter use the term “frenemy” recently. I immediately had a memory of the “Frenemies” episode on the TV show Sex and the City. My next thought was how the notion of “sometimes a friend/sometimes an enemy” applies to grief  (I know it sounds strange, but as a grief educator this is how I think!).

There are some grief responses that can be helpful (i.e. friendly) and lead us toward healing, but sometimes those same grief reactions can be detrimental and prevent us from grieving well (i.e. enemies). Read More

The Importance of Sadness

Inside_Out_SadnessI recently took my kids to see the PG-rated movie Inside Out. It’s a Disney Pixar film where the emotions of an 11-year-old girl named Riley are characterized as Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.

NOTE: If you plan on seeing the movie there is a spoiler alert below!

Joy, as the name implies, tries her hardest to keep things happy and fun. She wants Riley’s long-term and short-term memories to be full of good times and pleasant thoughts. Joy is constantly trying to keep Sadness at bay for she believes it’s only happy memories that help us get through difficult times. Sadness is left feeling guilty, apologizing for all the times she unwittingly caused Riley to feel the pain of the losses associated with her recent move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Read More

A Motherless Mother’s Day

IMG_2097I’ve been motherless on Mother’s Day since my mom died 20 years ago. I suppose it’s an anniversary of sorts, but I don’t feel like celebrating. I’m still grieving the death of my mom.  In many ways I’m sure my grief will never go away.  But over the years I have figured out how to get through Mother’s Day without a mother, and I would like to share my thoughts with you.

If this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I’m really sorry.  The first year can be so hard, but the truth is that sometimes the second or third years are even harder.  Actually, it can take a lifetime to sort through all our mother-related losses. Read More

Life, Grief, and Resurrection

FREE crossChristians all over the world will celebrate Easter this Sunday. Easter is the most significant holy day for Christians because the focus is on the resurrection of Jesus. There is great rejoicing in celebrating Jesus’ rising from the dead and in the hope of an eternal life filled with peace and love.

So what does that have to do with grief? Read More

March Sadness

FREE flowers poking through snow_purple crocusGrief is like the month of March.  You never know what to expect from March in New England.  One day it’s snowing with blizzard-like conditions and the next day it’s sunny and 70 degrees.  It is a month of surprises.

We never know what to expect from our grief either Our grief is unique.  It doesn’t look like anyone else’s.  There’s no set order or stages to our grief.  One day we feel like we are handling everything quite well and the next day we feel so sad and distraught that we wonder if we will ever feel “normal” again.

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Fifty Shades of Grief

FREE_heartsI don’t mean to be a stick in the mud by bringing up the subject of grief around Valentine’s Day, but let’s be honest – romantic relationships can cause us much grief!

When a romantic partner dies we can expect to grieve and receive support and sympathy from others. But what happens when a relationship ends even though nobody died? The “death” of a relationship deserves the same amount of grief as any physical death, perhaps even more since this type of loss often goes unacknowledged and can be easily dismissed. A relationship break-up (even if we initiated it) deserves our grief, and so does an intact relationship. Whether you just met your Mr. or Mrs. Right, or you’ve been together for years, no relationship is perfect.  There will be disappointments, unmet expectations, and plenty of ups and downs. In other words, every romantic relationship (past or present) has elements of loss. If we don’t allow ourselves to grieve these losses we may get stuck in regret and resentment that ultimately prevents us from more fully loving ourselves and our lovers.

So what’s a girl or guy to do this Valentine’s Day? Here are some tips for good grief whether your relationship is past or present; new or old.

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Say Yes to the Mess

FREE man in messy roomAre you a “Neat Freak” or a “Messy Bessie” in your grief?  When losses occur in your life (due to death, loss of good health, job loss, relationship break-ups, financial struggles, etc.) do you expect your response (i.e. grief) to be orderly and predictable or do you immerse yourself in the chaos of grief?

Neat Freaks expect grief to follow a certain path.  They cling to “stage theories” of grief such as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  They believe this is a road map to a sequential order of grief (even though these stages were never really meant to be stages of grief).  They are convinced that if they deviate from this plan then they are not grieving normally or are stuck in denial.

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