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, March 14, 2018

Stupid Things That Caring People Say About Grief

There is a difference between sharing words of sympathy, empathy, and compassion, and to the one who is grieving, it’s a big difference. Sympathy uses stock phrases that convey civility but not heart, and says things like this: “I’m sorry you’re suffering. This has to be hard, but I’m glad it’s not me.” Empathy moves the listener closer: “I lost my father last year so I know how grief consumes your every thought.” Compassion takes the listener right in: “Let me sit with you for a while and you can tell me what your grief is doing.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Self Care for Caregivers

Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen. Ruth Krauss

What gives people the strength and endurance to take care of others over a period of time? While most of us are happy to help people out now and then, a number of my friends are providing long-term care.

- Some have helped a struggling parent for a decade.
- One has patiently taken care of a bed-ridden wife for eight years.
- One dealt with her husband’s ongoing depression.
- Another copes with his wife’s dementia, knowing that it will only get worse
            and additional care will be required.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Integrating Our Loss

Dark Night 4 of 4

Grief takes our world apart and sets us down in darkness, in a time and place away, where we can figure out how we are going to restructure our lives. The grief we feel over the death of someone close challenges our beliefs. It takes us to the far edge of faith as we try to comprehend what has torn our hearts apart. We cannot see our way ahead and feel abandoned.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Breathe. Eat. Sleep.

Self care for the grief battered.

In the beginning of grief, it’s hard to care about anything. We’re exhausted, and we don’t care about anything. This includes taking care of ourselves.

We’re much better at taking care of others who are grieving because then we don’t have to face our own despair. Some of us also find it hard to let others help us because that says we’re not as independent as we like to think we are. Be humble and accept their help. And if we inadvertently do something nice for ourselves, it just feels wrong.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

100 Miles Beyond Where Jesus Lost His Sandals

Dark Night 3 of 4

Today is Ash Wednesday when the Lenten journey of refocusing one’s life begins for Christians. It’s also Valentine’s Day when we celebrate our heart’s yearning. For some the two are intimately twined.

The title of this post is something I heard recently. I don’t know its origin. It struck me as fitting both the journey of grief and the journey of faith when we have traveled far beyond everything we know and are simply trying to survive today.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Café Adagio

Grief advice for a complacent millennial.

Sometimes you need attitude when talking to people about grief because many are still clueless, and polite words don’t penetrate their foot of insulation. Grief isn’t polite. It’s messy and filled with stampeding bison, but it also invites kindness, if we are paying attention.

This is an imaginary conversation — the what I wish I could say.
Put your iPhone down and look at me. I asked you a very simple question, you know-it-all punk. All you had to do was answer like a normal person and we wouldn’t be in this situation. Tell me “It’s complicated” “Hard” “A drag” Whatever! 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Inherited Grief

We are taught how to grieve by the legacy carried in our families, or, more often, we are taught how to cover death up. This presented a problem when my wife Evelyn died.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Secondary Losses

(for K.)

No one just dies, and no one just grieves.  

Grief is complicated. You lose more than the person when someone dies. You lose a network of connections, your foundations are shaken, and you no longer know who are.

Self. You lose part of yourself, because part of you came alive when they were around. You can’t just plug someone new into the hole and go on as before. You choose your friends carefully, and their deaths take chunks of you away. Who are you now?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Courage In the Wilderness

Dark Night 2 of 4: Weaving the Shadows Together

Brené Brown, in her book Braving the Wilderness, writes: “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

There Is Enough

My new essay at Rebelle Society

I have felt enough SOUL to know that among those who grieve there are meadows of COMPASSION.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Zen Nietzsche

My essay at Elephant Journal

As Gary Larson said, it’s not the Bluebird of Happiness that’s flapped into my life, but the Chicken of Depression. Grief led me up the steep switchbacks to the top of a Sierra Nevada mountain where the wind blows over a stone land scrimshawed with snow.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dark Night of Grief

Dark Night 1 of 4: Shattered Illusions

Many people feel uncomfortable when they’re alone in the darkness, even when they’re standing in their own yard and watching the stars at midnight. It’s as if the darkness can’t be trusted and this is where nasty creatures live. Like Thomas Merton, I find presence and solace watching the stars in the dark hours before dawn. This is when words of inspiration come, and meditation deepens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Stone Monastery of Grief

To many people, the world of Grief seems like a big void, a large, empty cavern of audacious terror that one wants to flee, a place filled with utterly depressing chaos and rampaging emotions. It is.

But it also has long periods of silence after the first onslaught of grief calms. To those who grieve, the journey is like living in a monastery. So much has been taken away that life feels pared back to stone walls. Except for occasional rantings in the middle of the night, it’s quiet the rest of the time. We’re always slightly cold, and the food we eat, while nutritious, is nothing to write home about.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

After the Holidays

The holidays are finally over. We probably partied too much. Ate too much. Watched too much TV. We’re lethargic and exhausted. Yet, if we’re grieving, we finally no longer have to pretend that we’re happy and that life is a fantasy land of happy-happy. But now an unstructured year stretches out before us like a big lump of dough. What will we do with it? More to the point, do we have the energy or desire to cross grief’s boundaries and make any changes?

Monday, January 1, 2018


           January 1                    Mark Liebenow

Zero degrees this morning
as if there was no temperature.
The world postcard still.
No creatures move.
I breathe the crisp air in slow,
not wanting to freeze my lungs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Listen To the Night

At dusk, in the somber gray of late December, the world is quiet. The woods are sketched in shadows and the sky is painted rose and cornflower blue.

Standing on my backyard deck, I listen to the woods — the creaking of trees in the slight breeze, the soft click of black sunflower shells landing on each other, dropped by wrens and purple finches at the feeder. Weary from a long year and the holiday bustle, my thoughts move among the trees as I watch squirrels chase each other through the snow.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Solace of Nature

If holiday celebrations become too much, go outside and walk in nature, if only for a few minutes. Listen to the earth and its creatures. Nature continually surprises us with wonders we’ve never imagined.


When grief knots me up, I head for nature. Breathing the fresh air of the mountains, forests, and meadows almost always clears my mind and opens my heart.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Gift of Presence

Book: Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief, by Joanne Cacciatore, PhD

Many grief books are not about grieving. They’re about dying, or having to take care of children as a single parent with grief set to the side. Or they’re self-help books geared for when you’re coming out of grief and want ideas for how. But two books were published recently that actually help you deal with grief in the first year, which is when you need guidance and assurance the most. The first book was by Megan Devine – It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay. The second book is this one, by Joanne Cacciatore, a bereavement counselor.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sitting on Dark Mountains

When grief comes, it pulls a blanket of darkness over our world, and we begin to move through shadows. We live in a void of everything we’ve ever known or loved.

When my beloved died, I went to Yosemite and sat in the darkness of Glacier Point, between the light of the constellations above and the campfires of people a mile below, trying not to think about the bears and mountain lions moving in the wilderness behind me. The life I had known had abruptly ended, and I was thrown into a place where there even the constellations seemed unfamiliar.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Home For the Holidays

No matter what holiday we celebrate at this time of year, our memories of being HOME for it are probably similar.

The idea of going HOME for the holidays fills us with warm images, of sleigh bells and dreidels, of lattes and latkes, of Hallmark moments complete with snow, ice skating and houses with glowing lights. If we live in a warmer climate, Santa might wear shorts, and holiday lights are strung in palm trees instead of spruce.