Every Wednesday

Every other Wednesday, I will post a reflection on grief as I continue to explore its landscape and listen to your experiences. In the sharing of our stories with each other, we find encouragement and build a community of support and understanding.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Solace of Nature






Whenever grief knotted me up, I headed for nature. Breathing the fresh air of the mountains, wandering through the woods, or sauntering along a river, uncluttered my mind and reopened my heart.

Nature asked little of me. It accepted me as I was, and invited me to share its community.

I could sit beside a river for hours and let the sounds of the undulating water soothe my struggles. I could wander in the forest’s shadows when the brightness of the day became too much. As I hiked over the mountains, I could physically work out my anger, frustrations, and find moments of happiness that pushed back against despair.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Holiday Black and Blues

The holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. We will take a deep breath and step on the roller coaster ride that will zip us through a gauntlet of paper-wrapped, bow-tied, fancy-clad celebrations and parties, changing out one set of decorations for another as the next holiday begins. 

Depending upon your background, your formal observances could include Hanukkah, Advent, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. Many of them celebrate the presence of light, like Diwali that came earlier. It’s a time of renewing our faith in matters unseen and harvesting hope for the coming year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What You Can Say and Do

The CBS Sunday morning program this week ran a feature on grief that included an interview with Rebecca Soffer of Modern Loss, a website that shares personal stories of loss. One of the points brought up was that many people who want to help those who are grieving feel uneasy about saying anything because they don’t want to make the grieving feel worse. 

Below are a few suggestions for what you can say and do. I am grateful to Modern Loss for publishing several of my short essays on grief. You can find the links below.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Contacting the Spirits

All Souls Day, Nov. 2

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Rumi's Stretcher from Grace

Last night I was wandering around the house, which is something I do now and then to get my bearings, when a line from Rumi’s “Zero Circle” came to mind: “Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up.” I don’t think Rumi was addressing grief, but his words have useful insights. 

The poem starts: “Be helpless, dumbfounded, / Unable to say yes or no.” This pretty much sums up our state of mind when grief begins. We no longer know what to think or feel, and we find it hard to make even simple decisions.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

John Muir and Grief

The death of someone we love changes our life and unveils the frailty of existence. When we sit down with grief and look back, we realize that change has been continuous over the years. We are not who we were ten years ago or who we were as a teenager.

John Muir said, “Creation was not an act, it is a process, and it is going on today as much as it ever was.” Grief reminds us of this.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

At the Hour of Our Death

In the hours before someone dies, after family and friends have gathered and said their goodbyes, after the dying person has stopped responding, everyone wonders what they are supposed to do now. 

Ideally, in the moments before this last one, we talked to the person who is dying about important matters—everything we wanted to say to each other while we still could. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many of us weren’t able to do so, and we’re left feeling the descending doom of the unsaid.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Delayed

My post this week is delayed because I had an idea at the last minute that would make it a better post. So that will appear when it’s done. 

In the meantime, check out the compassionate post that Elaine Mansfield put up yesterday on her site. It’s about how we face the moment when someone’s life is about to end. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Widowed Fathers

There are few books that speak honestly and in detail about being a widowed father. There also aren’t many grief memoirs written by men, compared to the number written by women. There should be more of both.

A recent book by Donald Rosenstein and Justin Yopp is excellent—The Group: Seven Widowed Fathers Reimagine Life, Oxford University Press, 2018. It shares the stories of men in a support group that met monthly and talked through their struggles of suddenly having to raise children as a solo parent. As they shared their insights and emotions, they helped each other navigate and survive their new challenge. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Love is a River

Love is a river. It doesn’t exist when it’s not flowing. 

When grief comes, love moves from being a noun to being a verb.

Love is the awareness of being.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Grief Cafe

When we lose someone we love, we become members of the Grief CafĂ©. It doesn’t matter who died or under what circumstances, we loved them and our hearts have broken and are leaking. There are no dues and only one initiation rite, which we’ve already gone through. A look in the eyes is enough to tell who belongs. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Freedom of Walking

Walking is an act of freedom.

Taking a break from writing, I go out for a walk. This time I’m not heading into the woods. I’m walking on the streets of the neighborhoods around me. Literally. Some have no sidewalks. Some don’t even have a shoulder, and I have to step in the ditch when cars approach. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dark World Community

Since Evelyn’s death, I often go to Yosemite. In the darkness of night, I walk into the meadow and lose myself in the wonder of the constellations turning overhead. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Lost to Suicide

Laughter in the Darkness

Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014 from suicide. 

He was dealing with Lewy body dementia that progresses quickly and is marked by depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. His death brought light to a difficult subject, and the discussions I heard afterward spoke of the mental illness aspect of suicide. They took the blame off those who kill themselves, and removed the guilt from family and friends who felt there was something more they could have done the night before that would have saved them.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The First Death

In his poem, “A Refusal to Mourn,” Dylan Thomas said, “After the first death, there is no other.” He was writing about a child who burned to death in the bombing of London during World War II. In addition to the child’s death, Dylan might also have been referring to the death of his childhood belief in life’s innocence and that everyone lived a happy existence into ripe, old age. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Clara's Dead, Maybe

Riffs on Doctor Who and Grief 

Doctor Who is a science fiction program on the BBC that revolves around the relationship of the Doctor and a companion as they jump around different universes through time and space saving people, planets, and whatnot. They travel in a blue TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which looks like an old, British police telephone box from the outside, but is enormous on the inside. The Doctor has a fondness for protecting humanity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Accidental Grieving

It’s unsettling to read about someone who is in anguish and coming apart at the seams. At the same time, Maryanne Pope’s book A Widow’s Awakeningis a heartwarming story of her spirit’s ability to endure one of the hardest experiences we will ever face — the death of someone we love. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Talking to Trees

When a friend received bad news about her cancer, I thought, “I’ll go out and talk to the trees.”

Bear with me a moment. I used to light candles, think of those who needed support, and prayed. I sometimes still do, but talking to the trees seemed to be the right thing to do here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bitterness or Compassion






Bitterness is a bale of barbed wire. After someone we love dies, we wrap it around ourselves to protect us from ever being hurt again. Life can’t get in, but we also can’t get out. 

Bitterness has razor sharp edges. At a time when we aren’t able to feel anything else, we can feel this. Bitterness is different than sorrow. 

Bitterness is sorrow covered with the jalapeno of anger and the habanero of rage.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Comfort in a Time of Grief

You know how it is when you suffer a tragedy and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and are happy again in no time at all? Neither do I.

When we’re deep in grief, there’s not much we can do to get out of it. There’s little that anyone can say that softens the impact of our loved one’s death. When we’ve moved further on in grief, we’re more understanding, but it will never be all right that our loved one died.