Recover, Heal, Transform, Grow, Integrate, Learn, Medicalize, Complicated, Disordered, Untimely, Get Over, Process, Move On, Renew, Move through, Stages, Get Past....and on and on and on.

These terms and more are used regularly regarding the time following the death of someone we love. Somehow we find a need to label our grief, to judge it and even medicalize it. It seems as if just saying "I am grieving" or "I am mourning" is not good enough. The labels we insist on using, however, convey a philosophy about grief. Usually a pathetic philosophy. In our death and grief phobic society, (and a society that judges people so quickly and easily) we look for goals such as recovery, transformation, healing, learning, move through stages, move on, get past, integrate the experience, grow from grief and more. We cannot just let grief be grief. Instead we have to solve it as if it was a problem. We medicalize it as if it were a disease. We put it on a time table or turn it into some lesson or change. Grieving people get trapped in this mentality and following a loss too many want to know how long this will take, when does "it" end and shouldn't I be "moving on", getting better, healing? Those who try to help often come from good intentions but too often lack the information they need, feel frightened and/or helpless and perhaps have an inability to accept their own raw or repressed grief.

 
 
Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, who delivered his sister's eulogy was interviewed on the CBS News Sunday Morning show today (March 15, 2015). In the course of the interview he said (in response to interviewer Tracy Smith's statement "It has been close to 20 years." "Yeah, I met someone the other day who was so interesting, she had actually lost her sister in a car crash, in fact the same time. And I said, 'How is it for you?' And she said, 'Well, the pain's the same, it's just the tears are less.' And that's very profound."

 
 
It was 3am on January 3. A light snow was falling as three rabbits ate grass in my back yard. They looked cold. I rarely have sleep problems now but I know not to fight them. I make herbal tea, grab a book or sit in the dark. I don't dare turn on my computer, iPad, Android phone or iPod. None of these will help me get back to sleep.

I had driven to the nearby town of Dodgeville that day for a computer repair passing the cemetery where my husband Bill is buried. To distract myself from the sadness I always feel when I drive that road, I flipped on public radio. On this day I was feeling relieved that the holidays since Bill's death were finally over. One of my favorite programs had just started: On Point with Tom Ashbrook.  I learned this was his first day back following the death of his beloved wife, thereby ending the distraction I sought. Most anything of value on the subject of grief draws my attention. I am a therapist and bereavement counselor and I am also on my own grief journey. Certainly not like I was early on, but grief is forever and as many people who have walked this journey know, five years, though it seems  like forever, also feels like yesterday. One learns to live with grief and search for anything that will ease the pain. I have spent 40 years working with those who hurt, many of them grieving...most I might say since grief is about many kinds of loss. How I wish all that experience had helped just a bit after Bill's death but nothing could ease that gut wrenching pain; pain that sits more quietly now, but still rears its head unexpectedly in spite of all the grief work I have done.

 
 
Many of us spend a good deal of time crying in the first few months of our lives. It all starts with the birth cry which occurs as the newborn's lungs expand with air. And then come the tears mothers read so well knowing when her infant is hungry, wet, uncomfortable, overtired, scared, angry and more. As adults, crying varies between the sexes, with women crying more often than men probably because it is considered more socially acceptable. As adults we cry when we hear lovely music or see something beautiful. Tears flow when we are sad and happy; frustrated, overwhelmed or trying to get attention among other things.

And most of us cry when we grieve.

Actually with grief we weep, sob, and sometimes wail because the pain is so deep. Sadly, in our society, we tend to be uncomfortable with tears be they our own or someone else's. As a result many hold them in far too often; apologize for them; and save them for when they are alone even though crying with someone is a sacred experience. My husband used to call my tears "holy water".

 
 
I originally wrote this article for Marty Tousley's Grief Healing Blog. You can find it at:             http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2013/12/meditation-helpful-to-those-who-grieve.html
It is only through holding our own broken hearts and wounds in an attentive and compassionate embrace, that we can, over time, move through our grief to some stage of peace and resolution.  ~ Brad Hunter

Research studies confirm that the practice of meditation and mindfulness changes our brains and our lives; reduces pain, anxiety, confusion and stress; boosts the immune system; and increases concentration, focus and compassion, among its many other benefits. In addition, the practice of meditation and mindfulness can assist us in healing our grief, because it helps us live in the present moment...where our grief resides. It gives us better access to the "now," thereby helping us become more aware of our pain and sadness, and in turn begin to heal it. Distracting ourselves from our grief is necessary and helpful from time to time, but repeatedly avoiding pain and grief only serves to prolong the journey to healing. Any tool that can increase concentration and focus and bring us to that place where grief resides (the present moment) is surely a tool that will facilitate grief healing. As a dedicated advocate of the use of meditation and as a fellow mourner, my hope is that others learn how helpful it can be as they walk the labyrinth of grief in their own lives.

 

Patience

07/20/2014

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I was out in my back yard this week trimming Arborvitae back off the fence. I returned at 5:30 the next morning before the heat of the day to pick up the trimmings and load them into my Subaru to take them to the dump....it would probably take four trips. I imagine it took me a total of about 3 hours or more to do this.. My Golden Retriever Bentley came out with me and after smelling every corner of the yard checking for the presence of squirrels and rabbits, he stood by the door waiting to go inside. Each time I looked over to check on him, there he stood...patiently waiting to be let into the house. He did not bark or squeal. He just stood silently.

 
 
This piece was written for my newspaper column, Reflections, less than three weeks after Bill died in 2010.

It is now three weeks since Bill crossed death's threshold. Spring has arrived here in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The cardinal has taken over our Maple tree perching himself at the very top each day and announcing his territorial claim with birdsong. In the back yard, the rabbit races across the yard when our dog, Bentley, chases him. The rabbit knows exactly where the hole is that gets him beneath the fence. S/he created that escape route. Birds of all kinds empty the feeders on an almost daily basis. A dear friend gave me a new birdbath in Bill’s honor and it now graces our yard along with the one left to me by my Dad and next to these feeders. The yard is alive with birdsong. The trees are budding and the sun is higher in the sky.
All of these make my heart smile for a brief moment. I think of how we both love/d spring. We could hardly wait to get out to the hills and soak up its beauty. The cycle of life goes on. Spring arrives in all its glory and soon summer will present herself with the fullness of life. When the leaves fall from the trees next autumn in preparation for winter, the cycle will once more have completed itself. Over and over again…dawn to dawn, spring to winter, and birth to death to birth. The wheel keeps turning. People come into our lives and people leave our lives.


 
 
June 22 is a very special day for me. It always will be. It was on this day in 1986 that Bill and I exchanged wedding vows and from that day forward on the 22nd of every month that followed we celebrated our marriage  with cards, poems, dinner out and special moments. I still do honor that day each month.

 
 
persistence

uninterruptedly she flows -
though interrupted
by every boulder
and fallen tree lodged -
undaunted she

bill hunt -of cutler creek – 10 may 2000
Little did I know when Bill sat at the edge of Cutler Creek writing this poem that just five years later, (in 2005), I would be drawing on my own persistence in order to forge ahead as we struggled with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's and as I ultimately struggled following his death in 2010.  I can't say I am undaunted as is Cutler Creek but I can say that I will never give up.  

Bill loved that creek. It was behind our mountain home in Colorado. At night we would listen to it as we drifted off to sleep. I frequently found him sitting there listening to the sounds it created especially when the mountain snow was melting in the spring. Or he might be writing a poem, watching eagles soar or just soaking up mountain beauty.

 

Personal Growth &
Grief Support Center