Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Grief Process’

We Will Heal

This past week has, once again, demonstrated that we can never take our tomorrows for granted. The families who have experienced the loss of a loved one as well as so many who suffered physical and emotional harm will have a long road ahead to heal. Yet, heal they must because that’s what is required of us as we learn our life lessons. The length of time it takes to heal is as individual as the human beings involved. There is no specified or acceptable length of time for the grief process. You won’t see an expiration date on a grief stricken bleeding heart. Given enough time, the bleeding subsides, the wound heals over but the spot remains more sensitive for the rest of our lives.

We can help others who experience loss by giving them the gift of understand and empathy. We can also help our world by recognizing that even as tragic events seem to be happening more frequently our response as a country is becoming more laser focused and strategic. Basically we are becoming more efficient and effective in the aftermath of tragedy.

Why must it be after the fact and not before the event happens you may ask? Unfortunately, weapons are more available than ever and bombs can be constructed by following a recipe from the Internet – similar to following a recipe in a cookbook but rather than a delicious feast we end up with a famine of the heart. The diversity of people’s opinions seem greater than ever before. We are now a global melting pot that, too often, pairs discord with violence.

Was it always this way or have we changed – gone awry? Some would say the old days were better, safer and more truthful. Don’t be swayed by misinformation or fear. Simply viewing the movie ‘Lincoln’ helps us keep perspective. The truth is that we have never had a time where the world has not experienced turmoil before a heightened sense of understanding. The difference today is that we are so much more socially connected that reports of tragedies seem to be bombarding us constantly. Information is a powerful thing. We want to watch the daily news but then may find ourselves worrying about the safety of our own families – a catch 22. Yet to be disconnected and ignorant about events in our world invites in the potential for an even greater catastrophe.

Our national and state leaders have come together with law enforcement individuals, yet again, to establish order and find the perpetrators of violence and restore calm in the wake of tragedy. We are awed by their speed, their efficiency and effectiveness. We are stronger today than yesterday, more united in our resolve not to be cowered by fear but confident in our strength as a nation.

As always, truth will prevail.

Have a peaceful few days!

Let Go and Live

In my book, Just Behind the Door, I shared the many messages I have received from my son on the other side. It has been a long journey through the process of grief and there have been so many lessons presented especially on the topic of forgiveness. When I work with others who have lost a significant person in their lives it is not uncommon for them to be angry that their loved one ‘left them.’ Please know that you were not abandoned by your loved one. It was their time- as crazy as that may sound – and ‘All is as it should be.’ God or the Universal Energy does not make mistakes.

If your past memories are dominating your present life it may be time to consider the importance of changing your thinking.

Holding on to the past hurts whether it be the loss of someone dear to you or simply negative events that have found their way into your memory limits your energy and restricts the possibility of happiness for your tomorrows. If you think of your brain as simply a vessel that holds things, how much space are you using up with sad or hurtful memories from the past? I’ll bet you can remember incidences from your life as far back as elementary, middle and even high school that caused you mental anguish. Add to those memories any situations in your recent past that have caused you anxiety or hurt. Think of the negative weight you are carrying around in your mind. Can you just imagine how much more energy you would have and happier you would feel if you made a conscious effort to rid yourself of these hurts from your past.

To let go takes work. If you could simply say to yourself I’m done with that and move on that would be like hitting an ‘easy button.’ Learning to let go of the hurt, loss and emptiness necessitates that you spend active moments working on it. For instance, make a list of the 10-20 events that have happened to you in your life that rocked you to your very core. The things that hurt so badly that at times you didn’t know if you could go on. Write them out, look at them and think about how much energy it is taking to keep those sad memories alive. Are you ready to let go of them?

Meditation is a wonderful way to help recalibrate your thinking. It is a powerful approach to use on the topic of forgiveness. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and think about each of the things on the list and decide if you are ready to be free of the burden of keeping it alive. Send the memory out to the Universe each time you exhale. Just think to yourself, I no longer want to keep this negative memory. I send it out to the Universal Energy with love. I choose to live surrounded by positive energy for a better tomorrow. You will need to repeat this activity many times before your mind will truly let go of them. Be patient. They have been building up over your lifetime and it will take a little time to unearth them. There is no substitute for putting in the time necessary to release the hurts of all your yesterdays. But it is so worth the effort.

Have a great few days!

Death, Taxes and Change

Death and taxes are said to be the only absolutes in life. I think we need to add change to this list since facing change is also an absolute. Change involves both endings and beginnings. Both have a great deal in common – losses and gains. The steps involved are consistent and predictable. As we face the new year let us embrace the changes ahead. By knowing about the emotional process of change it gives us greater confidence, a knowing that we can handle whatever life has in store. I find the following framework helpful in processing changes in my life. Hopefully, you will find it valuable as well.

Level 0 – We are not interested, prepared or expecting a change to happen. At first we may find ourselves in denial, anger or at least uncertainty. Is this really happening? Should I, must I – the what if’s begin to flood into our mind. Expanding our comfort zone can be unnerving.

Level 1 – The realization hits us that the change is likely. We may think we are not ready for it and fear enters our thinking. We think of all the downsides of the change, forgetting that ‘all is as it should be.’ We momentarily forget that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes.

Level 2 – Now the change is eminent. We ask ourself, ‘how will this DIRECTLY affect ME? ‘ We may worry, ‘can I really do this, cope with this and make it work?’ We go into survival mode, momentarily, wishing it would just go away. Gradually, sticking our toe in the water, we begin thinking more about the change and mentally ‘trying it on for size.’

Level 3 – At this step we accept the change and quickly want to know what and how to manage it. ‘What should I do first, second, and so on,’ we think to ourself, quickly trying to gain a sense of control. We may have moments of regret or worry but in our hearts we again strive to remember that ‘all is as it should be.’

Level 4 – Now we begin wondering or worrying about how the change will affect OTHERS in our life. We wonder what we can do to help them. Often, only time helps. They may not be experiencing any excitement or seeming advantage by the change so time is needed to let them get used to the idea and process through these steps.

Level 5 – We are now fully engage in the change and want to work with others to celebrate it. We are living with the benefits and challenges and gaining a sense of comfort with the process. It is exciting for us but others may still not be there yet. It’s okay. Loving support and the gift of time will continue to help. Everyone processes change in their own ‘right’ time.

Level 6 – Acceptance of the changes in our lives have become the new norm. We begin to gain more confidence in our ability to handle the next change that is inevitable in our life. We want to help others realize that they can also handle changes in their lives with patience, love and understanding.

Death, taxes and change are absolutes for all of us. They are part of the script we wrote before birth. There is a peace in knowing that!

Have a great few days and remember to embrace change in 2013!

Healing Through the Holidays

Another Thanksgiving and so many reasons to be grateful and yet… Although we may be struggling with the fact that there is an empty seat at the table, we remember the holidays when everyone was taking up their assigned seats and passing the turkey and gravy. Laughing and sharing what it meant to be together. Those were the times…

Loss has a way of catching you unaware especially during the holiday season. It creeps up on you and renders you speechless in mid sentence. Your voice catches in your throat and you pray not to be obvious to others. You think to yourself, I need to brush away my tears quickly so I don’t upset others. It is amazing what we do to appear strong to others.

The holidays are challenging to get through normally. Add the life changing event of loss to the mix and sometimes just getting through rather than celebrating is the best you can do. It’s okay. Most of us have been there or will be going through it sooner or later. No family escapes the sadness of losing a loved one. We are all travelers on this same path. It is predictable but not invited. The timing may be different but the gut wrenching ‘whys’ and ‘if onlys’ are the same. Maybe if we try to reach out and grab the hand of a fellow traveler and let them know we care both of our paths may be smoother. It’s worth a try.

Our loved ones want us to remember the special times we had, the unconditional love that still exists in our hearts and reflect on the gifts – large and small in our lives today. We see the victims of Hurricane Sandy and realize how quickly life can change. We have experienced devastating change in our own lives and have been altered -bruised and beaten- but we continue on because we realize that our loved ones may be gone from our physical presence but we will always have the special memories the ‘Kodak moments’ to remember. Memories like precious gems that grow more valuable with age are gifts that last a lifetime. We close our eyes and see the smile, hear the humor and feel the intensity of our loved one. We know we are enveloped by their unconditional love. When we feel the chill of loneliness surround us, we have only to remember the love. It will warm us and light our way toward tomorrow.

On one level we know there was a reason for their passing, ‘To everything there is a season.’ But knowing is one thing and understanding much less accepting is another. Our hearts and minds struggle to function in concert. This cruel twist of fate seems impossible to understand but eventually we stop fighting and demanding that it be different. Eventually, we move to a point of recognizing that we have more lessons yet to learn. Is is hard? The toughest thing imaginable. Can we speed up the process? No, we all heal in our own unique time and space.

So when you sit down with family or friends over this holiday let’s remember that our loved ones are around us always. We have learned a great many valuable life lessons. We are strong, we are survivors. Most importantly, we have learned both the value of unconditional love and that the energy of our loved ones last forever.

Robert Frost wrote a poem that may speak to you. It is entitled Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

On this Thanksgiving eve may you remember yesterday with love and peace, celebrate today for the opportunity to make the day a little brighter and look forward to the challenges of all your tomorrow’s because you are loved.

As Frost said in another poem..
I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Have a great few days!

Allow Yourself to Heal

I talked to a person recently who said that they no longer feel joy in their life since losing their loved one. They feel anxious, unable to concentrate and just basically empty inside. I understand. I have been there. From the moment you wake in the morning a heaviness descends around you and you have to absolutely will yourself to take that first step of the day. The loss of someone you love is not easy to put into words. Loyalty, trust and joy are just a few of the emotions felt when we love someone so deeply. We think to ourselves, now all that is gone from my life. Our grief is not only for today but the many unrealized tomorrows.

An important part of healing from loss or even just making it through the challenges of living as we learn our life lessons is to ‘allow.’ By definition, allow is ‘to permit.’ To give yourself permission to feel, grieve, remember, even momentarily to wish things had been different, and it is a natural part of grieving the changes that happen in our lives.

We are so used to making things happen that to just allow life to unfold seems counterintuitive. We may feel that it is a cop out, an excuse to do nothing. Quite the contrary. If we turn the kaleidoscope in our minds ever so slightly, we will see that when we allow, we resist the urge to try to control everything or to demand life be a certain way to make us happy. We still strive to become all that we can be but as things happen that hurt or derail us we look at them not with indignation but with a deeper understanding as we search for the personal lessons contained within them. To learn to allow is a hard lesson. To me, that one little word – allow – means a combination of acceptance for what is combined with a belief that ‘all is as it should be.’ It speaks of a power, an energy, greater than ourselves

Take some time over the next few days to think about the word ‘allow.’ How would your life be different if you looked at events, challenges even losses in your life and thought to yourself, my life is about accepting that the Universe is unfolding in perfect order. When you learn to allow, a sense of peace envelops you and you begin to exhale the stress that is so deeply bottled up within you.

A poem that has been meaningful to me on this lesson of allowing life to unfold was written by R. Bach.

A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction
and at such a speed,
It feels an impulsion…this is the place to go now.
But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns
behind all clouds,
And you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough
To see beyond horizons.

Have a great few days!