How To Get Through The Holidays While You Are Grieving

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The holidays can be an especially difficult time to navigate when you are grieving. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for creating peace and bringing comfort for this time.

Essential Advice:

BREATHE - wherever you are, whatever you are feeling or doing, take a moment to simply breathe. Be present to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Encourage your breath to come slowly and deeply.

  • With each in-breath silently say the word Love and with each exhale silently say Peace.
  • When you feel especially stressed or overwhelmed by sorrow, practice the 4,7,8 breathing method. (breathe in to the count of 4, hold to the count of 7 and exhale to the count of 8). You can watch a tutorial of this method with Dr. Andrew Weil online.

10 Tips To Ease Grief During The Holidays 

  1. Keep it simple. If you regularly deck all the halls and host parties for the multitudes, this is a time to simplify. It is okay to cut back and give yourself permission to do only what feels the most meaningful.
  2. Practice self care every day. Take walks, exercise, eat well, indulge (mindfully), watch your favorite movies, take warm baths with epsom salts, splurge on new pajamas and comfy slippers. Giving to yourself is never selfish—it is vital to your ability to heal and be well.
  3. Communicate with your family and friends. Send a group email or letter letting everyone in your trusted circle know how they can help you. Maybe it is with decorating or cooking. Maybe you would like extra time in solitude or need their companionship each day. Maybe you need everyone to know and understand that this year you need to be able to change your mind about everything at the last minute. People in your life love you and want to support you. Communicating your needs and desires makes it easier for others to be there in a way that is actually helpful to you.
  4. Rest. Grief is exhausting work. Grief requires an enormous amount of emotional and physical energy. Honor your grief by resting as much as you need to, whenever you need to.
  5. Allow yourself your feelings, whether it is anger, sadness, intense grief, or laughter and mirth. Whatever you are feeling, it is okay—even if it doesn’t feel good. Allow the big grief waves to come and go. Remind yourself that all feelings are temporary. Allowing yourself to be present to your feelings helps your grief to move and transform.   
  6. Include those you are grieving in your celebrations. Set a place at the table for them with a candle and their picture. Donate to a cause they loved. Treat yourself to something they would have given you. Buy something for them that you would have bought them and donate it to a charity or give it to a friend. Set up an altar with their picture and sacred objects.
  7. Talk about your loved one. Your relationship with your loved one goes on. Talking about your memories of them is important. Find people who encourage you to share your memories and spend time with those folks.
  8. Surround yourself with the people who bring you peace: those that understand you, listen to you, and support you. You know who these people are because you feel uplifted and better after being in their presence. If you leave the company of others and feel extra exhausted and irritable, it may be a sign those are not the best people to spend your time with right now.
  9. Be in nature. Notice the trees, the water, the landscape around you and breathe in the fresh air. Being in nature can be a balm to the grieving heart. Allow the expansiveness of the sky to hold you and your hurts.
  10. Reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Find a grief counselor or join a support group that can help you as you are coping with the intensity of your feelings through this potent time.

I hope you find these ideas helpful. Please know I am here if you want to talk or would like my support as you move through this season.

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How Long Will This Hurt?

How Long Will This Hurt? (Melinda Laus)

When someone you love dies, the pain can be cruel.

Unrelenting. Possibly bigger than anything you have ever felt or experienced before.

It can feel like it will never end, never change, never get better.

When you are in this place, and your pain is so big and you are overwhelmed, you must still reach out.

It is hard enough to go through this grief -  do not go through it without help.

And still, even with help and support, you must be asking yourself,

How long will this go on?

The simple answer is that it will not always be as intense as it is in this moment for you.

The intensity and duration lessens. It changes.

But it never really goes away.

Not completely.

Remember that your sadness is the other side of the coin of your love. How deeply you loved is also how deeply this will hurt.

Grief is like waves on the ocean. Sometimes the waves are enormous and crashing; pure power.

Other times, the ocean is calm. The waves are mere ripples in comparison. But always there is movement; there is the rise and fall of tides, storms as well as calm.

Grief is very much this way.

I remember early days when the waves overtook me; it felt like I was stuck in a constant storm.

Every day was a new experience in loss - something new to grieve. Each day brought new ways to notice the impact of David’s death and how it was ripping my life apart.

I couldn’t grocery shop, get a haircut, sit in traffic, or talk with a friend without a powerful wave crashing on my inner shores. I charted my days by how long I could go without collapsing into sobs and pulled under by the current of my own emotions.

I judged my own progress based on how long I went between waves. As if not feeling more meant success.  

I see now that my success was in allowing myself to be pulled with these waves and guided by my emotions. I made progress each time I gave myself permission to feel the depth of my sorrow, to release my tears and allow the pain of loss to work its powers of  transformation on me.      

And now after years of this ebb and flow - storm and calm; I am still here. Still answering to the pull of the tides and the wisdom of my emotions to guide me forward.

There are fewer and fewer storms reaching the shores of my life.

And yet the storms still find their way to my shores - even now.

I no longer wail at the seas for storming or at this pain for once again visiting.

I see now there is a purpose to these feelings -  to this release.

There is no getting over this loss. There is only folding it into my life.

The beautiful memories, the incredible love that we shared and the sorrow. It will hurt forever because he will be gone forever.

Yet, there is still room for the hope of something beautiful again.

 

Flowers From David

 

I believe that our loved ones reach out to us from the other side of the veil and communicate their love and encouragement.

Speaking through nature, symbolic gestures, dreams, poetry, and songs - so many people speak of an experience when their loved ones seemed to be reaching out and bringing comfort during times of heavy grief. I experienced this myself each June.

Each June miracle flowers appear from David. I know they are from David because these are no ordinary volunteer flowers, you see, these flowers look exactly like the stargazer lillies I carried in my wedding bouquet almost 20 years ago! These beauties arrive bringing reminders of his love for me.

They encourage and remind me to be compassionate with myself during the challenging days in this month I find so difficult each year.

David’s poetry from the other side never ceases to amaze me. These flowers simply appeared one day growing in my garden. Like a miracle. I did not plant them. They began to grow and every year since in early June and the magic happens again.

These blooms greet me as soon as I open my front door, before I go out into the world each morning in June. I notice them at the end of my day when I return home weary and ready to relax. I like to think that David sent me these flowers in place of the ‘goodbye-have-a-great-day’  and the ‘welcome-home-how-was-your-day’ kisses.

June challenges me a bit each year with a series of meaningful days.  Within the span of 20 days, I celebrate the birth of our youngest son, the end of the school year - which includes graduations and other ceremonies - Father’s Day, and finally the anniversary of David’s passing.

I continue to learn how to tandemly celebrate my sweet and amazing birthday boy and quietly recognize the enormous sorrow I feel without his father’s living presence.

I found a way to smile and celebrate the graduations, promotions, and good-byes that come at the end of the school year while I also allow the free flow of tears that come over these fast moving years. Each year I strive to create a balance with marking Father’s Day as a time to remember David as the amazing father he was, as well as honor the other fathers still in our lives.

June 26th, the anniversary of David’s passing, continues to be a day of homage to him.

Some years I spent devoting the day to his memory by eating his favorite foods and steeping myself in his memory. Other years I gave myself permission to retreat in seclusion and wait for the day to pass. Recently I discovered peace by treating myself to a trip away from home on that day. I have found healthy distraction in being engaged with the world through travel while still being present to the importance of this day. I usually find myself writing him a letter or in conversation with him in my heart throughout the day. This has become an important day to commune with my own spirit while inviting David to visit as well.  A sort of holy check-in with myself and with him - as if the phone lines between us are clear and working for this one day of the year.

However I choose to spend the 26th, David’s flowers provide solace. Sent from beyond to bolster me with love as I walk through this month so fraught with poignancy and bittersweet meanings. The miracle of his flowers continues to amaze me each year.

They are a love note sent by David - harbingers of the connection that still exists between us. Reminding me he is still with me. Still sending me love. Still offering his exquisite presence even in his absence.

I have learned to notice these blooms while I also notice these days. To take them in - watch them grow and thrive in the light. Allow them to anchor me with the gesture of their presence. I recognize them for the gift that they are - a spirit gift - sent from my beloved. A whisper in my ear of sweet words and reminders that there is more to this life than meets the eye. There is more to loss than tears shed and learning to live without. There is love after-all, light as well as the dark, hope and leaping joy, and the quiet prayer for courage to sustain another day.

Have you experienced any messages from your loved one from the other side of the veil? How has your connection continued even after their death?

Remember that you do not have to journey alone through your grief. Call me if you want to chat.

 

With Love,

 

On Regret

At first I didn’t regret a thing. Really. Not a single thing about David’s life or our marriage, not about a past argument or a moment when I annoyed him or a choice I made. No regrets. We had agreed on that early in our love together. We lived fully present to one another and to ourselves. We consciously created our lives together through our daily conversations, affection, thoughtfulness and ways of being. We planned, talked, dreamed, worked and designed our perfect life - the life we were actually living.

And then he died. Suddenly, unexpectedly at 31 years of age. On a sunny Thursday in late June. Gone. His heart. Just Gone.

I remember telling people, friends, my therapist -  really anyone who would listen, that I had no regrets. Deep in my soul I knew that I had nothing to regret. I did not cause his death. I did not contribute to his death. He was happy. Extremely happy. We had just had our beautiful second baby boy. David was thriving at work. He loved the new house. Our lives were beautiful. His life was beautiful. What could I possibly regret?

A few months passed and then regret came calling.

It started as this niggling little voice that wondered with fear - could it have been the medicine he was taking? Those new antihistamines that I encouraged him to get from his doctor... Did that cause his death? I regret telling him to get that medicine. Maybe it was because I didn’t cook us enough vegetables, not enough leafy greens. I regret not being a better cook and nutritionist.  Oh my God, did he die because I bought him the wrong deodorant or toothpaste?

I began to regret every decision. To dissect every choice.

Crazy. I know. But I went there. I went there to try to explain the unexplainable. Why did he die? How could this have happened? What could I have done to stop it from happening?

Regret became part of my grief journey. I regretted choices, actions, and words from my past. I also regret the future we would not be sharing. While regret may be an understandable and common part of the grief experience, I learned regret is destructive. My regrets created self doubt, judgement, and pain. Like a boat stuck circling in an eddy, regret trapped me painfully rewinding and reliving our most difficult moments.

When I’d say to myself “Oh, how I regret…” what I really felt was shame - nasty, mean-spirited, hard edged, and sharp. I confused my feelings of regret with a sense of responsibility - more responsibility than was humanly possible. I kept myself struggling with these feelings until finally I found a way through.

I began to find compassion for myself.

I learned to hold myself with grace and kindness rather than judgement and criticism. Compassion led me to self forgiveness and put me on the path away from regret.  Learning to embrace my limited responsibility freed me to mourn the loss of my David.

Sure, I had made mistakes. Lots of them. I am human afterall. I used to annoy David every day by leaving my towel in his sink after my shower instead of hanging it up to dry. Oh, how that annoyed him. Sorry, Babe. And now I forgive myself without  regret.

I could be twisted into knots of regret over the life we did not get to have together. Instead, I mourn the fact that David missed our boys growing up and our shared life together.

I know I am not responsible for his absence and once I discovered compassion for myself I was able to mourn authentically with courage in my heart.

Are you struggling with regret?

Is regret trapping you into being hard on yourself?

Remember to be gentle with you. Allow yourself the warm embrace of your own compassion.

I am here if you want to talk.

With Love,

PERMISSION SLIPS


THERE WERE TIMES WHEN I NEEDED EXPLICIT PERMISSION TO CREATE MORE ROOM FOR HEALING IN MY LIFE. This was hard for me. I am a pleaser by nature, so saying, “No”, to things has always been challenging. Two months after David died, it was time for our annual family campout...