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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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

Part One of Four: 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.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Creator and Sustainer of this World,
be with those of us who have lost a loved one.
Comfort us in our grief.
Listen to our cries of anger and confusion,
listen to our sobbing,
our rantings of shock and despair.
Sit with us in the many lonely hours to come.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rituals of Community and Grief

People walk around a center altar, and kneel in the darkness of a sanctuary as a candle is processed in by a dancer to the middle where a circle of candles is lit. A bell rings, and we open ourselves to the mystery of this moment, not knowing what we will discover, or what will be uncovered, tonight. A cello plays a meditative melody. A cup is shared. Bread is broken and passed among the people. The bell rings again.

No words have been spoken, but the gathering is filled with symbols. It is ritual, and we feel something rise within us, something that we had forgotten was there, something that quickens our pulse and draws us in.

We long to be embraced by mystery, not have it explained it away.

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

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

Moving On

This is the second part of my thoughts on the book, Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

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. I generally wouldn’t recommend it, though, for the first year of grief.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Facing Grief

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 not 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 which team he’s playing on.

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.