Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Third Path For Grief

Book: It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, Megan Devine, 2017

Our culture hides from grief. We no longer know how to take care of those who are grieving, and we expect people to get over grief quickly and get back to work. Megan Devine wants people to listen to their emotions, and she wants grief acknowledged as a normal part of life.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Option B - part 2

Book: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

This is the second part of my thoughts about the book.

When grievers feel ready to move on and want ideas for how, Sheryl and Adam’s book is quite helpful. It’s easy to read, informative, personal, engaging, and encouraging.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Option B - part 1

Book: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

I like Option B for a number of reasons, but I would hesitate to give it to someone in their first year of grief. That would be like telling a football player who has just suffered a concussion to get back in the game, even though he doesn’t know where he is or what direction to head.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Nights of Remembrance

On Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, many of us took time to remember and honor our loved ones who had died.

We celebrated their love, humor, and compassion, and gave thanks for their continued presence in our lives. On these nights, people around the world lit candles and held them up in defiance of death.

We held our candles high, for the darkness shall not overcome our lights.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Celebrating Our Dead

For many of us, Halloween is the best time of the year to talk about death. Except that we don’t. Some cultures have annual celebrations for their dead like the Obon festival in Japan, and Sweeping the Grave in China.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Grateful Dead as Grief Advisors

I didn’t listen to the Grateful Dead when I was growing up in Wisconsin, too busy, I suppose, hiking in the woods. Then I went to college and got serious for a smattering of years. When I moved to California I rediscovered one and found the other.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Death Of A Mother

Books: Meghan O’Rourke, The Long Goodbye: A Memoir; Once: Poems

There aren’t many grief memoirs that actually describe how grief feels and how it moves. Meghan O’Rourke’s works do.

In 2011, O’Rourke published two books about her mother’s last year of dying from cancer and Meghan’s first years of grief. They are honest. They are unflinching. They blend emotions and stories of her mother with research and theories from psychology about the grieving process.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Metabolize Grief

The other day C. Ossefort-Russell (@CORTherapist) used the term — metabolize grief. I think it’s great, and I will ask her what she means by it. In the meantime, what it says to me is that if we actively engage grief, we burn up its destructive forces and gain energy and power from the process.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sci Fi and Grief

Movies help us escape reality for a couple of hours when it becomes too hard and intense. Movies also help us re-envision our lives and find strength for a challenge that lies ahead. They reach places inside us where we are hurting and give us hope. This is not escapism. This is looking outside the wooden box of the present towards the horizon to see what else might be possible.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Environment Of Our Lives

Respect and Responsibility

Last fall, I listened to Lauret Savoy speak at the Aldo Leopold Center in Wisconsin about how our lives are intertwined with the environment. Savoy is Professor of Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College. She read passages from her book, Trace, which explores how her life was formed by the landscape of her family’s history, the places they lived, and her love of national parks, and she shared the words of Leopold.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Alphabet of Grief

A beginning lexicon for grievers, gathered from friends.                 

Aubade to the Afterlife
Banshees of Bereavement                   
Café of Broken Hearts       

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Alone or Lonely?

After the death of a spouse, the absence of the other person is keenly felt. Half of the life we knew and cherished feels gone. And it probably is.

Suddenly there is no one else in the house to talk to, cook for, or clean up after. No one to toss around ideas with for what to do this weekend. No one to cuddle in bed after a long, exhausting day, falling asleep in the arms of someone who unconditionally loved us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grief For American Society

When someone we love dies, we feel grief. When an institution we trusted fails, we also grieve.

If you don’t remember, a politician spoke to National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts in July and not only gave a political speech, which had never been done before, he also said things that would get a scout kicked out of his troop.

At first, Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts’ Chief Executive, gave the lame excuse that politicians are always invited to speak at the Jamboree. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Writing Grief Out

All sorrows can be borne if they’re put into a story, Isak Dinesen said. Writing unties grief’s knots, and unhooks death’s claws from our flesh. 

We begin to understand grief by recording all of our thoughts, feelings, memories, heartaches, and sorrows, writing until we can’t think of anything else to say. When something more shows up, we write that down, too.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chew the Gum

Anne Lamott tells the story of having her tonsils taken out as an adult. After two weeks, her prescription for painkillers ran out. She called the doctor’s office to get a new prescription, and the nurse said No. The nurse told her to chew gum vigorously, which is the last thing that Lamott wanted to do with a painful throat.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Grieving In the Woods

Book: Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup

Kate Braestrup writes about her life after husband Drew, a Maine state trooper, was killed by a driver who lost control. This isn’t a memoir of grieving. It’s a memoir of learning to live with grief.

She accepts the cards she’s been dealt, having learned from the loss of a beloved family pet when she was a teenager, that death was part of life. She buried her dog with her own hands and stacked rocks on top to keep animals out. She rebuilt that stack six times until she thought it was right for honoring her friend.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Hollow Days

I wasn’t finding much that was helpful for dealing with grief in my own religious community. Maybe this was because Ev died unexpectedly. Or because her dying suddenly in her 40s left us in shock and made each of us feel vulnerable, as if any of us could die at any time. So I went looking at other religions to see what they did. 

The grief traditions in Judaism helped me the most, and this is what I understand about them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Worst Grief

Sometimes when we’re feeling bitten hard by grief, or just snarky, we try to prove that we are hurting the most, that our grief is the worst that anyone has ever experienced. In the entire world. Ever.

I’ve lost a wife in her 40s, three beloved pets (well, one not so beloved), both parents (one to dementia), all my grandparents, a friend to AIDS, two to murder, several to cancer, one to suicide, and a number of young friends to car accidents. As I walk among the tombstones in my private cemetery, it would be hard to put them on a scale of the worst because they each hit me hard in different ways.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Advice For Grief Recovery

Dumbledore to Harry Potter, when he clung to thoughts of his dead parents,
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

My friend Fred Erwin wrote what he would share with people if they were grieving. His words are filled with wisdom, truth, and compassion. These are his thoughts with a few of my own. 

Pay attention to your grief.  
It is right for us to grieve because people we love have died. They died too soon, and they died before we were ready. They died before we had learned all we could from them. They were an important part of our lives, and their absence leaves a hole.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Brian Doyle

Writer. Age 60. Died May 27 of a brain tumor discovered six months earlier.

Stark details, and all too familiar. They don’t say anything about who Brian was. How he wrote in a way that made grown men drool and old women swoon clutching their rosaries. How he touched the lives of thousands of people who knew him or read his words. He was reverent and irreverent, often in the same sentence. Insightful. Optimistic. Funny. Stuffed full of heart and faith. An artist with words that stunned with their lyrical beauty.