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. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Silence of the Holidays

Holidays used to be Holy Days when time was set aside for looking at our lives, figuring out what we didn’t like about them, gathering spiritual guidance, and adjusting our habits so that we would head in the direction that we wanted. Instead of facing our trauma, we have morphed the observances into an excuse to indulge in excess.

If we lost someone this year, we don’t want celebration. We want mindfulness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Boxes of Grief

My friends didn’t know what to say. They’d never lost anyone close. My wife died young, and no one taught my generation about grief’s landscape. No one knew to tell me that life was over as I had known it, or that I would be thrown into a land cratered by death for more than a year.

Yet everyone had a Box of Imagined Grief, with odds and ends tossed in for what they thought sorrow was like. Whenever I came over, they dug around in their box, took something pithy out, and handed it to me to comfort my grief. Then they expected the dinner party to go on as planned. As you might guess, this wasn’t what I needed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Finding the Thanks

Thanksgiving is brutal on those who grieve because it demands that we be grateful for what we have. But in the beginning of grief, all we can see is what we’ve lost.

The traditional things to be grateful for on this day are food, shelter, and community.

If you haven’t recovered your interest in food, and cooking traditional holiday dishes seems wrong because of death, then this item is out. Most of us interpret shelter as home, and if someone crucial is missing this year, then “home” is gone. Community means the people we gather with, usually family but also friends. This year we are painfully aware of who isn’t here.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sex is Not an Emotion

What do widowers want when they begin dating? 
My essay at the Good Men Project. 

I am grateful for Sarah Marty-Schlipf and Wendy Fontaine's insights.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Finding Our Compass Points

When someone we love dies, the world we knew ceases to exist. The future is scrambled, and we no longer know what direction to head. The center no longer holds.

I’ve carried a quote by Thomas Merton with me since high school. I was riding my bike from Minnesota across Wisconsin, wanted something to read, and found Merton’s slim book Thoughts in Solitude in a convenience store:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Contacting the Spirits

All Souls Day

Today we honor those who have shown up at crucial times in our lives and helped us survive. Its roots are thousands of years old in a time when people tried to ward off Death and wandering, malevolent spirits that took family and friends away, often without warning or reason. While modern medicine has subdued some of these spirits, we still fear the long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night. Too many people we love die unexpectedly, and too many die young.

We are scared of death. We want to know what happens to us when we die.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween: Feasting on the Dead

Even though we dress up in skeleton costumes, and walk down the street like zombies and ghouls, we probably aren't going to talk about death or grief on Halloween. The ancient Celts did during Samhain, and Mexican cultures do so for Dia de los Muertos.  What happened to us?

My essay at the Huffington Post:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween and Holy Days

Halloween doesn’t do much for me. There is pressure to buy decorations, dress up in ghoulish costumes, eat lots of candy, and ooh and aah over neighborhood children who come to the door being cute. All I want is a quiet place where I can spend time in the presence of my dead.

The Halloween I cherish the most is the one that came seven months after Evelyn died. Late in the afternoon, I went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Only two people were there, kneeling by the rows of red votives burning up front.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chrysalis of Grief

I want my wife’s death to never have happened. Since this can’t be undone, I want grief to be over and never return. This is taking some time.

I want to write about the happy side of life without always seeing the shadows. I want friends who have lost children, parents, or siblings to laugh again without tears reminding them how deliriously delightful their lives once were, even if this isn’t completely true. There was enough joy to hold the darkness at bay.