Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for January, 2012

Abandonment or Belief?

In the last couple of days I received emails on the topic of abandonment and loss. The definition of the word abandonment is deserted. Let’s think about that for a moment. If you have lost someone through death or divorce, it is natural to feel sad and lonely. Being alone or apart from someone has both an emotional and physical hurt to it. Feeling abandon or deserted – may be natural if someone willing left you. As you live through the next year (and you will) you will gain a sense of empowerment simply from surviving. Remember the saying, another year older and another year wiser? Eventually, you may come to see that the person who left chose that path for lessons both of you had yet to learn. We are placed in the lives of others for many reasons. When the lessons are learned a new chapter begins. Some are fortunate to be able to have the love of that special someone during every chapter of their entire life. Not everyone is that fortunate and has that success.

When someone dies, however, if the feeling of being abandon or deserted continues for a long time it implies, to me, that you may still feel angry or feel that somehow it was in their control or power NOT to leave. My spiritual teaching tells me that, “to everything there is a season.” They did not willingly desert you but simply had to leave. It was their exit point. My teaching also also tells me that they may be gone physically but their loving energy is still around you. They want to reconnect! They are trying very hard to get our attention. It reminds me of someone who is continually trying to place a call to us, and for some reason, they can’t get us to answer the phone! How frustrating it must be for our loved ones on the other side. Due to our own anger, fear or depression, the wall we have placed around our heads and hearts stops the signals from coming through! Emotional walls are developed from fear and create a barrier to living. We may think those walls protect us. In reality, they simply serve to keep us locked into grief. There is no blue ribbon or best in show award given for spending the rest of your life in grief. Quite the opposite. What are you doing to move forward after your loss?

Practice Gratitude

When we are dealing with the death of a loved one, at times it seems like the the pain will never end. Their pictures and personal belongings bring back a flood of memories that seem to keep you trapped in a never-never land of grief and despair. For those of you who are experiencing these feelings let me share with you something that helped me through the loss of my son. The practice of gratitude. The idea of being grateful may seem foreign to you right now, I understand. I know it is a stretch to think about, but it can be a lifeline for tomorrow. For the first two years after my son’s death, I read so many books from parents who had lost a child. In their own way they gave me confidence. After all, they had survived their loss and even lived to tell others about it. As tragic as their losses were, they were trying to help others through their writing. Consistently, the theme of gratitude was a huge part of their books. It forced me to think differently. Yes, I missed him terribly but I was, in fact, grateful to have had him in my life. What are some of the ways your loved one changed and enriched your life? It helps to think about those things even when you are at the depth of despair. It was not an accident that they came into your life nor when they left it. As my son said in my book, “Mom, all is as it should be.” Even though their exit time was clearly known to those on the other side it most likely blindsided us. When you think about it even that is something to be grateful for. If we had known, in advance, about their exact exit point, our lives in the meantime would have become unbearable, a living hell, as we waited. We were able to love them, laugh with them, appreciate their uniqueness and even learn from them. We had them for the exact amount of time that God – the Universe – or whatever name we give the power greater than ourselves had designed. No more, no less. Yet, their legacy and their energy lives on. They gave you a piece of themselves that you will hold onto forever. The memories cannot be taken from you. They are safely tucked away in the recesses of your mind. For all of that, we can be grateful. Before going to sleep tonight, remember just one thing about them that makes you grateful. Tomorrow night, think of another. Make it a nightly practice to remember with gratitude something special about them. Step by step you will begin to feel stronger and better able to face tomorrow. You will never regret this practice, I promise!

If you have a word, or a thought about your loved one that elicits gratitude please consider sharing it on this blog. Who knows, maybe someone out there is just waiting to hear a special word that will help them get through tomorrow.

Lessons in Brick Walls

As we go through life, occasionally, we hit a brick wall. It may seem impossible to scale. We look around for an alternative path, a new route. Yet, nothing seems to be revealing itself. Are we simply stuck with no way out? I have found that a brick wall often exists for one of two reasons. First, it may be intended to teach us a lesson. What is it about the circumstance that totally unnerves you? Another reason for the appearance of a brick wall in our life may be to prevent some action that, in the long run, would not be beneficial to us. If you have experienced this feeling of hitting a brick wall lately, I would ask you to take a few moments to truly think about what is truly the most upsetting thing about it? You may have to force yourself to really think hard – to push your protective comfort zone away – to get to the real answer. Usually, this takes three or four different answers coming to mind until the real, gut wrenching “aha” finally surfaces. In my book, I explain this feeling of hitting a brick wall when my son was killed. For the first 15 hours or so my mind kept thinking that it wasn’t true. Since I was in Michigan at the time, I felt that once I could get to him in Colorado, I would simply refuse to let this be truth. I would demand that he get up and get on with his life. When I saw him at the funeral home, I realized that even with all the strength of my will power, I could not undo what had been done. He was gone. One of my lessons with his death was to realize that I simply could not control everything. In the past, I had always been able just make things work out, often by shear will. I had been the master of control! I had it down to a science. But this time it simply wasn’t working. I realized, after much soul searching, that my greatest lesson was to accept the things that cannot be changed. Losses through death, divorce or separation just happen in life and contain lessons for all who are involved. Humility and control were two lessons I learned through my son’s death. What lessons are you struggling with in your life? Feel free to comment on this page or send me an email and we can connect.

I would like to share a poem with you from my manuscript. It has been meaningful to me and I hope it will resonate with you.

If you look with your head and heart you will see:
Beyond chaos, there is a reason
Beyond darkness, there is light
Beyond absence, there is presence
Beyond nothingness, there are infinite possibilities
Beyond pain, there is healing
Beyond brokenness, there is wholeness
Beyond anger, there is peace
Beyond indifference, there is connection
Beyond boxes, there is infinity
Beyond questions, there are answers
Beyond silence, there is communication
With communication, there is love, light and peace

When Our Friends Are Grieving

We can help those who have lost someone many different ways. Give them a hug and say, “I am with you, you are not alone.” The importance of being truly present in their lives cannot be overstated. They are reeling over their loss. Their thoughts many times are either jumbled or short-circuited. They often feel adrift even dreading the thought of another day or night without their loved one. That is where we come in as fellow travelers through this experience called life. When we offer to help them with something and they can’t think of a thing, challenge yourself to find something. When my son was killed one of my board members wanted to come over to the house and plant some spring flowers! Wow! That takes a special person to think of something like that. But do you know what? I have never forgotten his offer. It made such a loving impression on me. I have been on both sides of this life changing event called death, crossing over or passing on so many times. Let me offer a few hints. First, we have 2 ears and 1 mouth because we need to listen more than we need to speak. Too often, authentic listening seems both under-rated and under-utilized. I know it feels good to actually be able to perform a task for someone who is grieving. Taking some food over to them or running an errand makes us feel like we are doing something tangible to help them. However, when there isn’t anything specifically you can do at the moment, the real importance of what we can contribute comes shining through. You can call, stop by for a short visit, or send a card. Do anything you can think of to let the person know that, even if a few weeks or months have passed since their loss, you have not forgotten. Don’t worry about making them sad by bringing it up again. It is always with them and will be for at least a couple of years or maybe for the rest of their life. I read years ago that the average person expects the bereaved to move on with their lives within 2 to 4 weeks. Seriously? I can assure you that is not even close to reality for most of us. That’s why your listening presence is so very important. This act of reaching out is the most selfless act we can perform; the true art of listening is at the heart of it. Regardless of the length of time you have, even 5 or 10 minutes may just be the salve needed for their wounded heart at that moment.

I don’t know if our lives today are busier than they were in the last few decades. Working, raising a family, keeping the home fires burning have always been a full time job. Marriages, births, and deaths are events that just happen along our paths. Communication is faster and more efficient with technology at our fingertips, but is it as effective with the topic of loss? When you email a person to say that you are thinking of them, that’s nice. When you pick up the phone or send them a special card, that’s better than nice – it’s great. I know that there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. You meant to stop and see the person who is grieving, but time just escaped you today. Besides, you may say to yourself, what are you going to say to them? They seemed so depressed and stuck. Maybe you will stop by or drop them a note tomorrow. Will that tomorrow come?

By sharing a little of your time, even with your hectic life, you give the grieving person a boost of energy merely from your note, especially from your presence and most exceptionally when you just listen to them. Remember we are all energy. When you know of someone who is experiencing any kind of loss, give them the special gift of your time and energy by listening. After all, life is not remembered by the hours in the day, but the moments that caused our hearts to skip a beat and took our breath away. Together, we will make a difference in this world — one authentic person at a time.

Faith – Hope and Change

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” When I read that quote I thought how fitting it is when thinking about spiritualism and the ability to reconnect with out loved ones who are just behind the door. Since most of us were not taught that this type of communication was even possible it can be strange territory to try to wrap your mind around at first. You can be sure if you discuss it with others early on it can bring out the naysayers quicker than the political debates we are presently experiencing. Resistance to an idea does not mean the idea is not a good one but it does mean it is a new one. When any one of us experiences something new there are predictable stages we go through similar to the predictable stages of loss developed by Elisibeth Kubler-Ross. At the first stage we react like the 3 monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Basically we just don’t want to talk about it. However, little by little as we begin to search for more information the idea – if we are ready – begins to take root in our brains. Now a new possibility exists in our thinking that we are not sure of or sold on but we are at least willing to investigate and learn more. Who knows we think to ourselves it just might begin to give us some answers that feel right. It might help fill in a piece of the puzzle that for years has remain unfinished. It takes time to internalize all of this. I know as evidenced in the bibliography attached to this web site. I did not arrive at this belief overnight. I do know it makes more sense to me than anything else I have ever studied. Since my son from the other side has been communicating with me for over a decade and I was transcribing the tapes to create my book the evidence seemed so irrefutable for me.

The definition of hope is desire accompanied by expectation. It is fitting here. Which one of us who has lost a significant person in our lives doesn’t hope that we will see them again. My sister who passed on from the debilitating effects of diabetes, a few years after my son, told me when she sensed her exit time was getting close about some things she wanted me to include in her eulogy. Given her spit fire personality she didn’t give me a option whether to deliver the eulogy myself nor the salient points she wanted included! An important thing to her was that she didn’t want to say simply good bye to us but rather she instructed me to say, tell them “I’ll see you later – because I will.” We will all see our loved ones later for sure. However, we can reconnect with them now and be guided by their greater knowing. As we navigate through this classroom called life every once in a while something or someone comes along to offer a helping hand. I have had so many people help me through my losses that it would take a new blog just to list them. They know who they are – and I will be forever grateful. I do hope through this website I am able to pay it forward in the help department.

Speaking of help, to “TQ” who commented on the blog and asked about how to discuss spiritualism with her daughter I emailed her with some ideas and would like to share with all of you 2 beautiful books for children that I have found inspiring for adults as well as children. They are entitled, “The Next Place” by Warren Hanson and “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell. In addition to the beautiful text, the illustrations are amazing.

Did I Do Enough?

When we experience the loss of someone we love our emotions are raw. Processing each and everything leading up to their ultimate exit can become a full time job in our minds. Yet, there are decisions and arrangements to be made. Some family members may be pushing for closure without realizing that there is a perfect timing for everything in this Universe and that you will just know and respond according. Follow your gut – your heart on the issues as they develop and have faith that you will know the right timing for everything you need to do. The endless mound of paperwork to process seems to be both a welcomed diversion and insurmountable task. It gives you another job to attend to and stops your mind, momentarily, from rerunning the tapes of your loss but simultaneously steals the little bit of energy you have during these days. Each time you fill in the blanks on the forms you wonder – what else could I have done to prevent this. I understand, I have been there. It is natural to relive the last few months, weeks or days before your loved ones passing and reexamine everything you did. Your mind may seem flooded with thoughts of regret, anger even guilt. After all as a person who loved them why couldn’t you have anticipated their needs more fully. Why couldn’t you have done more to help them?

My belief in spiritualism has taught me that what you did was exactly what you were supposed to do – no more no less. Why some people suffer such sudden tragic passing or slower debilitating conditions wasting away to nothingness is beyond our ability to comprehend. As I discuss in my book, “Our Loved Ones Are Just Behind the Door,” our view is one of 20/20 hindsight. Our loved ones on the other side now have the gift of 20/20 hindsight AND foresight. My son has said since his passing, “everything was as it should be.” Knowing this may not help fill the gaping hole in your heart but should relieve your mind. You did not make a mistake or miss a sign that you should have seen. The events and experiences leading up to their passing happened just as they were supposed to happen. Their is a much greater force than you and I in this Universe.

I believe we have chosen our life experiences for the lessons we need to learn from them. This includes living through the loss of our loved one. If this sounds a bit harsh, I apologize but I believe it to be true in every cell of my body. Nothing just happens without a reason or without a purpose. Think of yourself as a cloud in the sky. There are wind currents that push you this way and then another. You join and meld with other formations and then bits and pieces break apart and move on in their own unique way. For a moment – a lifetime even- the magic of being together was bliss. But the sky surrounding the clouds knows a bigger purpose and works in concert with the Universe to allow it to unfold. Knowing that energy cannot be created nor destroyed only changed in form allows us to know that our loved ones’ energy continues – albeit in a different form. Through unconditional love we can reconnect and communicate with them, knowing they are just behind the door. They are patiently waiting for us to believe enough to allow it to happen.

I am humbled and grateful for the number of people who have responded to me through my email account and signed up to receive emails from the postings. It tells me that this website is serving an important need. I have heard from many of you regarding this concern of what more you could have or should have done. I have responded to each of you individually. The responses prompted this blog. If you can muster up the strength please post those same thoughts to this website. Who knows, together we might just be able to make tomorrow a little better than today for someone who is out there and struggling with the same issues. Together we are so much more than the sum of our parts.

Good Bye – Now What?

When you have experienced a significant loss the clock seems to stand still. What time or day is it anyway? Caring friends and relatives tell you that you will get through this it will just take time. Really? Well intentioned people might say – give yourself a few weeks to regroup. Really? It all sounds so logical. After all, we are taught that time heals all wounds. Frequently, however, people do not know what to say to you. They can visibly see your pain but don’t know how to help you and may say something like, “call me if I can do anything.” Really? They do not know how hard it is to think much less plan ahead and call someone to give you a hand or simply to listen as you once again relive the significant points in your loved ones life. You are not losing it when you can’t focus or can’t process what is being said to you. The 5 stages of grief are predictable; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In reality, it is very important to understand, however, that the time we spend in each stage is not predictable. It is not a linear progression where you automatically move from step 1 through step 5. That would make it easier or at least more certain. I do know that the depth of your feelings of loss is in direct proportion to the depth of the love that you have for the person who has left. In my book, “Our Loved Ones Are Just Behind The Door,” I discuss the difference of reading the word surreal and experiencing it. Losing two senior students in a five student traffic accident and then receiving the call that evening that my adult son in another state had been killed caused me to internalize the word surreal. It was beyond my ability to function, to process or understand. I was taught to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going in life. Tomorrow would be better. Yet in this instance my ability to function had been short circuited. Nothing was going in or coming out of my mind. Now I understand what it feels like to be frozen in time. In the movie, Steel Magnolias, Sally Fields is at her daughter’s grave site standing rather frozen in grief. As a well intended friend comments that her daughter is in a better place, Sally responds by saying with anger,” I know I should be grateful that she is in a better place, but I just wish someone would tell that to my heart.” I still tear up when I replay that DVD. I understand completely what she was saying.
My son has told me through recorded tapes over the last decade since his death that he is in a place of unconditional love. He is completely sustained. He has also said that he is around me and trying to help me as I navigate the lessons I have yet to learn in my life. I can now accept this as truth due to the evidence that has repeatedly been presented to me. It has been a long journey. Our loved ones “just behind the door” are waiting to reconnect with us. The bond of unconditional love allows the communication to happen. First, however you need to give yourself the gift of time to grieve thoroughly. There are no short cuts on the path of grieving and ultimate healing. But I can assure you that there is a path and it will get you where you need to be in time. When we are ready and open to this type of communication with our loved ones they will come rushing in to reestablish the connection. You can trust me on this one!
Do you know of anyone who has recently experienced a loss? If so, please pass this website on to them. Please encourage them to share their experiences in this forum, so that we may together explore the interface of grief and spiritualism. My goal is to help them as they traverse the steep terrain that lies ahead.

Suicide – Why Now?

In my manuscript entitled, “Our Loved Ones are Just Behind the Door,” I share the many losses and subsequent lessons I have learned in my life. One in particular, the suicide of my husband when I was 34 years old, left me in shock, fear and bewilderment. We had only been married for six months and I had no idea of his past history of attempts. I just kept asking myself what signs did I miss along the way? What could I have done to prevent it from happening? As always, hindsight is 20-20. Now I understand so much more about the topic since living repeatedly through the grief process and my further study of spiritualism. Nine days ago the issue of suicide surfaced yet again. Getting ready for a family dinner the call came in. An extended family member had committed suicide. We were all dumbstruck. This gentle, loving man was the last person in the world that we would have expected to take his life. He had been a devoted husband who was the primary caretaker for his wife who succumb to cancer after a valiant 10 year struggle. Later he remarried a gal from his high school who said she had waited 22 years to find a guy like him. They were eventually able to retire, sell their house and find the perfect location in another state. He had a recent physical and was told he was in great shape – no need for any medication (quite a feat for a man looking the age of 70+ in the eye). The time to reap the benefits of a life well lived was upon him. Yet, it was not to be. The question of why will remain unanswered – probably forever in our life as it does with any suicide. This is especially true when there are no indicators of concern such as depression or other visible behavioral changes.

Reviewing the statistics I was surprised to read the following:

-Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
-The suicide rate rises with age – especially from 65+ years -The suicide rate in men 65+ is seven times that of females 65+

Research has shown the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals – specifically a deficiency in serotonin neurotransmission. Lower levels of serotonin have also been found in people with depression and impulsive disorders. I believe that there are reasons for everything that happen in life. Some are understandable and some remain a mystery to us. Let us hope that something can be discovered in the near future to reduce this staggering statistic.

To anyone living through the tragedy of a suicide please know there are resources available to you. Consider joining a support group. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education are two excellent resources. There are many books available also. Specifically, “Suicide Survivors: A Guide For Those Left Behind” by Wrobleski and “Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide For Families After A Suicide,” by Cobain. Do you know of anyone who would be helped with this information? If so, please pay it forward.

For our family member who has passed on and is now just behind the door, I will remember the unselfish life he lived, the truly good human being he was and not let his exit define him. I will not say goodbye to him but rather, “Ill see you later” – because I will.

Reconnect and Reassure

The holidays intensify our feelings. This can be a wonderful thing unless they intensify feelings of loss, abandonment and grief. Today, the first of the new year is a wonderful time to reconnect with those who have lost a significant person in their lives and let them know how much you care about them. You don’t have to worry about reminding them of their loss and causing them sadness. Speaking from a voice of experience, they are already thinking about their loved ones who are just behind the door. Your energy can empower them to put one foot in front of the other and make today and 2012 a better year. For those who are experiencing the firsts of everything without that certain someone no longer in their lives, the holidays have been emotionally draining. Small things have elicited memories of another time –
remembering what once was but is no more. The tears are natural, even cleansing. Please take a moment and reconnect with someone who may be stuck and needs a boost of your positive energy. You will never regret going the extra mile to show them you care. It is similar to the phrase that has become popular from a movie a few years ago – Pay it Forward. Empathy and regard for someone in need is food for our soul as well as theirs. Remember the lesson on energy – it cannot be created nor destroyed, only changed in form. Let’s discover, together what this can mean in our lives. As Steve Jobs said about his vision of technology, let’s make a dent in the Universe. We can make our dent in the Universe on an emotional level by showing others that we remember and we care.