The above quote is from my Dad’s mass card dated August 30, 2009. For many years, I often wondered when I went to a funeral, what people did with all those mass cards. I found out this evening as I was cleaning off the altar that I have set up in my home to remember and honor friends, family, ancestors and guides. It made me smile when I read it and in spite of the conflicts and disagreements that my Dad and I navigated through, during the time he was here, we has resolved it all prior to his transition. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with him before he died and he was open and willing to talk with me about some of “our challenges.” To say that we were at opposite ends of the spectrum in beliefs, viewpoints and lifestyles would not be a stretch. I sat pondering if these mementos of our “dearly beloved,” would continue on in the same way or be replaced perhaps by digital ones or something else that has not evolved completely yet. Maybe we will send them telepathically and no words will even need to be spoken. Everything is changing so rapidly and we have more and more options at the end of life as we evolve both spiritually and environmentally. I lit a candle, and some of my favorite nag champa incense. I poured two glasses of Seagram’s 7 American blended whiskey seven crown for my two ancestral guides who had requested it. I greeted and thanked them for their unconditional love, service and unwavering guidance and set the bottle back under the altar. “The more things change the more things stay the same,” I said aloud as the two bulging brown eyes at my feet watched my every move and bobbed his head up and down.Read More
“Love and Death are the great gifts that are given us, mostly they are passed on unopened.” R.M. Rilke, Translation by Joan Halifax
I was recently asked to speak about Grief and Your Health by Mark Sackett (http://www.MarkSackett.com) from The Art of Active Networking, (http://theartofactivenetworking.com)
where he had started the new San Francisco chapter of The Health and Wellness Network of Commerce(,http://www.meetup.com/San-Francisco-Health-and-Wellness-Network) which meets at his venue, The Box. http://www.theboxsf.com/
I am proud to say that I am a founding member and have been watching this vital Organization continue to grow and flourish. Currently the new President Rae Roth, is building upon its inception and welcoming all involved in the Healthcare industry to join us on this important mission at an extremely important time in the Healthcare industry as we face and address some major changes and issues.
This month of October, I have chosen to share the presentation that I did because of the impact that Grief has on all our lives and because of the misconceptions. I also have taken on this plight to make everyone aware of the depths of its impact on our lives. Everyone is different and each loss is different, I will grant you that, but it does not diminish the power that Grief holds, nor the capabilities of this often misunderstood process. I use myself as an example because I have been through it and experienced it in my own life. I have found myself in a position of not finding the support that I needed, to make it through or the understanding of what was going on emotionally and Spiritually, because of it. I have worked in Hospice and seen the pattern of families and relationships torn apart by the devastation and the unbearable pain of loss. I have witnessed the inability of our Culture to speak of and address the emotions that choke our words, numb our tongues, clog our tear ducts and tear our beating hearts out of our chests in a single swoop. I have experienced the judgement, impatience, misunderstanding and well-intended comments of those who have grown weary of the process and want nothing more for us than to “move on”, “be strong” and “get a new life.” Grief is not an exact Science, does not always fit into a pretty little box and is often messy. Yes, two or three years seems about the right amount of time to get over a loss, but there are so many variables and many different kinds of grief. Grief is also something that we continue to experience and live over and over again with lessening degree and in new ways until we are “healed.” Each new loss in our lives can trigger old losses, IF we have not dealt with them properly and thoroughly.
What is Grief? Grief is a reaction to death, divorce, illness, job or home loss, or any other major life changing experience.
7 Stages of Grief
1) Shock or disbelief
7) Acceptance/ Hope
Physical symptoms that occur in response to major loss are very similar to those of a post-traumatic stress disorder victim or those who have served in combat.
In many ways, major loss is as traumatic as being in a war zone. If you are one of the lucky ones, you get a week or two off from your job to deal with it.
What are some of the physical and emotional symptoms that we can expect from Grief?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Chest pain
- Breathing is too rapid or too shallow
- Dizzy spells
- Cold feet and hands
- Pale skin
- Dark circles under eyes
- Feeling detached from others
- Not caring if you live or die
- Being on “auto pilot”
- Emotional Numbness
- Loss of appetite
- Nervous eating
- Nightmares- especially those in which you relive the loss
- Frequent urination
Some of these symptoms could also signal serious physical illness. See your Doctor if you experience persistent symptoms, any kind of chest pain, or symptoms that are accompanied by fever, cough or vomiting.
* IF YOU EXPERIENCE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS OR IDEATION Or ARE THINKING ABOUT HARMING YOURSELF CALL 911
Be aware of what your weakest link in your Health Armor is. This is NOT a judgement. Where do you hold stress? Where do you have recurring physical problems? What are some of your emotional issues that arise when overwhelmed or stressed out? This is NOT a sign of weakness, this is just how some people’s symptoms reveal themselves. We are all different and one symptom is better or worse than another.
Be It Physical OR Emotional, some examples and many of which I have experienced myself, include: back, lungs, heart, stomach, knees, depression, anxiety, addictions, insomnia, claustrophobia, agoraphobia etc. There are plenty others specific to one’s own body. The good news is that these are temporary. Once we get through them we can just pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and move forward. Always have someone to confide in that you are comfortable with and that you trust with the most intimate of details.
THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP, IT IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH!
There are generally two ways that we as a Culture or Society Deal with Grief:
1) Keep busy
2) Withdraw or Isolate
Neither one is bad because they are both helpful. The solution is to find a delicate balance between the two.
People most often ask “Is this Normal ?”
There is NO Right or Wrong Way to Grieve. In The Game of life, your body keeps score. I call Grief, “life’s shrapnel.” It is always with us and becomes a part of us, just as shrapnel buried in the body and becomes encapsulated by tissue, cells and flesh.
What Can You Do To Get Through?
- Get out in Nature
- Eat Well and Exercise- even just daily walks help
- Express ALL of your emotions and feelings
- Prepare for Holidays and Anniversaries
Keep talking about it and continue to “speak their name out loud.” This keeps them close to you and they also like it!
It was only months ago that my mentor suggested that I start writing a monthly blog and I was immediately thrown into a state of anxiety and fear at her suggestion. I chuckle to myself now, as I stand (sit actually) here taking on this huge question that theologians and philosophers alike have tried to unravel, understand and explain over the centuries. I have read many theories, explanations and opinions on the subject and always felt that I liked mine better. Maybe it is because we all have our own theories and they suit us and our time here on this earthly plain. Maybe my theory and explanation will change at the end of my Journey when I am preparing for my own transition. While time has absolutely no relevance on the other side, here on this plain, it is an opportunity to acquire both experience and knowledge. Time will tell.Read More
I am not sure if it is the same for everyone or not but, for me, each month of the year has a certain feel or personality to it. Usually defined by the memories, holidays or events taking place during that particular month. I believe that they have remained fairly consistent for me throughout my life, in that they haven’t changed much how they feel, in spite of the memories and life events that may have occurred. Perhaps they are formed early on, as it has been claimed, and they become the foundation on which all else is built.Read More
It is approximately 11pm on this warm Northern California Saturday night. I am camping at an elevation of 3,000 feet atop the beautiful and sacred Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County. This mountain is literally in my back yard. This is one of the things that my late partner, William and I talked about doing, but never got to. Tonight, I am checking it off MY list.Read More
We so often find it difficult to find humor with end of life experiences, because it is such a sad and devastating time emotionally and we are struggling to grasp the enormity of the experience at hand. The quirky and sometimes absurd are either lost in the chaos and drama, or just simply passed by. People often feel that it is inappropriate or disrespectful and, more often than not, it very well may be. That is why the humorous moments usually go unnoticed, unrecognized and unacknowledged. To share a laugh with someone at the edge of death, however, is to share one of the most intimate moments that one can share with another human soul. It can also be so healing for both.Read More
On March 13, 2016, I awoke to an encore performance by the Northern California winter winds and rains ensemble. It was misty, gray and oh so soggy—my favorite kind of Sunday. Celtic blood flows through these veins. I feel very much at home on these days. I sat up and planted my two feet firmly on the laminate floor, rose slowly and headed downstairs toward the kitchen to reward my two most faithful companions and start my morning rituals. Coffee first. I had a short list of errands that I needed to accomplish that day, but would start out with a daily pilgrimage to one of the many beautiful parks that are available to humans and canines alike here in Concord, California.Read More
I am not sure where or when I first came across this Celtic tradition, but something about it spoke to me. When someone died, the women from the town would walk through the streets in a public display of their grief by wailing and crying.Read More
I was speaking with a friend of mine recently and she was asking me what I like about what I do and what I get from it. I told her “If everyone sat with a dying person, this would be a very different world." “That’s your next blog,” she replied.
When I trained volunteers in hospice to sit with the dying, there were always two things that people were concerned or uncomfortable with. The first was usually the silence—if the patient was in a coma or was non-responsive. The second was, what to do? The answer to each is both simple and very challenging. Just be.Read More