Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finding a Quiet Place Among the Clutter of Life

Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I'd had a bad dream and didn't feel like getting up. I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head and go into hiding. But, when you have a job, you can't do that. So.......reluctantly I got up and looked around me and saw nothing but "clutter" from unfinished business. Dishes to clear away. Clothes to wash. A dirty kitchen floor. Bills laying in a pile unopened. Garbage that needed to be emptied. You get the picture.

I tried to collect my thoughts, but there was only more emotional clutter from days and weeks before. Unfinished sentences. Phone calls that were never made. Decisions that were left on the back burner. And, I began to panic. I needed a place to replensih myself....I needed to find a healing place for today.

As I got ready for work, I took several deep breaths to try to calm myself, and then I looked outside to see the raindrops falling. Why, I couldn't even take a nice walk and enjoy it........OR, could I? The more I thought, the more I realized that clutter and problems and rain will always be part of our lives, so I have a decision to make each and every day. I can either try to live joyfully in spite of the clutter, or I can call it quits and add to my already cluttered life.

I decided to take a walk in the rain with my camera and soak up all of the beauty that nature had to offer. You know what? It worked!!!! I looked at the beauty of unfolding buds, listened to the birds chirping in the rain, and felt the gentle drops touching against my face, and life didn't seem so cluttered afterall. In fact, there was order and beauty and promise to be found in nature. There was hope! And, by stretching outside of my cave of clutter, I managed to stumble right into "my healing place" of quietness and beauty for today!

Take a break today. Do something different. Find something that is away from the everyday clutter of your life, and look for your miracle.....your place of healing. It's there waiting to be discovered!!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Life can often throw things at us in fast succession! Sick kids, a broken washing machine, the toilet gets stopped up, a flat tire on the car, and a phone call complaining about the dog's barking all in one day! Times like those make us feel like sitting in a heap on the floor and hiding until the clouds disappear and the sun is shining again. Unfortunately, we don't have that option.

Instead, we take the kids to the doctor, we call the repairman for the washing machine, we call the plumber to unclog the toilet, we fix the tire (or call for help), and we bake the neighbor a pie and apologzie for the noise and promise we'll keep our dog quiet. By then, we're STILL ready to fall on the floor in a heap from physical and mental exhaustion!!!

How do we find replenishment during times like that when the rain won't stop and it just keeps on pouring? For me, I've had to learn the art of visualization. I find a secluded place (most often that's in my bedroom), lock the door, play some very soft, calming music, and close my eyes allowing only peaceful scenes to run through my mind. I visualize a meadow of soft grass, a field of lovely flowers, or a secluded beach with only the ocean waves softly rolling onto shore and lovely palm trees swaying in the breeze. I call this my "take fifteen" where I allow only positive healing thoughts, sights, and sounds to enter my mind. By the end of the fifteen minutes, I'm far more composed, feel more in control, and have the energy to tackle the problems that are waiting for me.

A good reminder is this: nothing lasts forever -- and this is especially true of the rain. Sooner than we think the sun will be shining again!

I hope you can find your "healing place" and visit that place often. Share with others, too, so that we can all learn and grow from each other!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day -- How should we remember?

Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering those who have gone on before us and have fought in a battle or served time in the armed services in order to help preserve the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. In this country we have many parades, special services, and speeches from Miliary Personnel who help us to remember the foundations of our freedoms.

All of this is good, and is honorable and it is wonderful to have a special day such as this set aside to prompt us to remember our core values and to be thankful for the blessings that we have. But, how do we remember the individual who has gone on? Often, we idealize our loved one to the point of perfection, and this is many times a key factor in triggering extreme guilt for not "being there", for not "doing more", and for not "being a better parent, sibling, child, or friend."

It is good and even necessary to remember those who have gone on before, but I would caution us to remember our loved ones realistically. What do I mean by that? We should remember our loved ones as they were -- human and prone to mistakes just as we are. When we block out the "real part" of our memories, we only remember perfection and that is often hard to deal with.

Let me get a bit grandfather served in the military for a period of four years, and I love him dearly for that! He told many "war time stories", and he was a courageous man who helped to preserve the freedoms of this nation. He was also a worker in a sawmill, and he was the "keeper of the gate" for a draw bridge. Add to that, he was an alcoholic who went on week-end "benders" every time he got a pay check. He never learned how to write his name, and he didn't really care. He always signed with an "X" . There are funny stories to remember, as well as some that were sad. But, ALL of those remembrances help to remember my grandfather as the man he truly was!!!

Let us remember those who have gone on before on this special day..........may we remember truthfully, realistically, and honestly. And, as we do, we will be taking one more step forward in finding that "healing place" for our souls!

How should I remember my loved one?

Remembering is a tricky thing, especially when remembering a loved one. We often tend to idealize the person who has passed on, many times placing that family member on a pedestal of honor and perfection. The danger in doing that is setting ourselves up for extreme guilt.

It's good to remember; in fact, I think it's necessary to remember. But, I think we need to do so with honesty, even when our tendency is to remember only the good times, only the good qualities, and only the most ideal situations with that person.

Part of the grieving and healing process is to accept "reality", and often the reality is that the person who has died was not always friendly or loving or kind. On a personal level, that happened when my mother passed away. I was overcome with terrible guilt for quite a while following her death because I refused to (or maybe I just couldn't at the time) remember her realistically. In my unrealistic image, she was a quiet, sweet, gentle person when in reality she was not that way at all. That's not to say that I didn't love my mother........I certainly did, but it took me a while to love her as she truly was!

Now, I can remember with fondness and even with a lot of laughter and joy and tell funny stories about some of her antics. In fact, my kids love to hear the "real stories" about "Nana", the character who left this earthly life far too soon for most of my children to get to know her.

Remembering is a large part of our healing. But, remembering truthfully is necessary or we will never be able to really work through this part of our grief in a healthy way. If Aunt Flo was a character who drank a bottle of Vodka a day and cussed up a storm, then that's how we need to remember Aunt Flo -- not as a prim and proper lady who never did any wrong and was quiet as a church mouse. To remember incorrectly is doing both a disservice to Aunt Flo and to ourselves.

Remember your loved one today, but do so with honesty. It's okay to remember the flaws, too, because those things are part of who we all are.

My mother? She was an Aunt Flo, and then some! Along with her daily bottle of Vodka, she had a heart of gold, and I will always remember her giving spirit along with the " wild tales of adventure" that made her who she was -- "Little Helen, the Fireball"!

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's the what?

I used to love the weekends, until.......until grief entered my life. Then, the weekends became a time of drudgery, and a time of more sadness and sorrow.......a time when the hours just seemed to linger on and on and time seemed to stand still. At least during the week I was kept busy!

That is the cry of many people who find themselves in need of "a healing place"..... a place that is a reprieve from pain and sadness and reminders of what has been lost. We generally associate the weekends with "time off", "family time", "sleeping in", "taking mini one-day vacations", or just "hanging out around the house killing time." For the griever, none of these things are appealing, nor do they help!

What does help? What can I do on the weekend that will help me to heal and not hurt? First of all, have a plan. Not having a plan is planning to fail. Be sure to have something in mind: taking a walk, watching a movie, taking a drive in the's always good to "do something" no matter how little that something is.

Secondly, be sure to surround yourself with lots of positives......positive photos, positive readings, postive music......things that will give you a healing message. The more we think about pain, the more the pain will intensify. And, on a better note, the more we think about positive things, the more positive we will feel. We can have a choice in this matter, and for the grieving person, this bit of "control" is significantly important!

Thirdly, remember that "this, too, shall pass." The weekends will always be here, but the loneliness from loss won't last forever. There will come a day when you will not feel so alone or so empty. If you have to, write that thought down on paper, and put that reminder in key places throughout the house where you can see it, read it, and hold that thought deep within your subconscious mind.

Finding a healing place is a task that every grieving person faces, and that place will be different for everyone. Do what is best for "you" and by doing so, your grief will not overtake you. By having a weekend plan, you also have a weekend place of healing!

What am I doing this weekend? What else......working in my flower beds. That is my weekend plan for a healing place!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What is a Grief Retreat?

When we think of the word "retreat" we generally think of a place to "get away", "a hiding place", "a place of restoration and replenishment", and "a place to withdraw from regular routines." All of those descriptions are true! And, when going to a "Grief Retreat" you can expect even can expect to gain a lifeline of support, and a nucleus of friendships, and coping skills that will aid you as you journey through this foreign land we call "grief."

I am a Bereavement Facilitator, the author of the book Silent Grief (about "finding your way through the darkness" following child loss), and the founder of the website. I am also a mom who has suffered six miscarriages, delivered a stillborn son, and experienced the pain of the death of my 13-year-old sister (when I was 15).

On September 18, 2009 there is an opportunity for parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends who have lost a child or loved one to gather together in the healing mountains of Pennsylvania to spend time together learning methods of healing and replenishment. This is the Second Silent Grief Retreat to be held, and it's my hope that if your heart is in a place of pain from loss you will give yourself this "gift of life" by attending this Silent Grief Retreat.

Does it take guts to attend? It sure does! That first step is always the most difficult step. But, I can guarantee you that you will not regret going to this retreat! We will have lots of discussion, informal sessions together, meals together, alone time, fun time (including a hayride!), and times of meditation, relaxation, and prayer. Please visit for the agenda and registration sign up form.

Why am I telling you about this? Because I want your heart to feel good again. I want you to experience joy again. I want you to feel warmth and friendship again. I want you to "feel." I've "been there" in the grief realm, and my life, like the lives of so many, continues to be touched by grief in many different ways. But, I also know inner peace and joy and I want to share with you how to experience that, too.

Why not give the retreat a try? Open your heart to healing. I'd love to meet you, and welcome you into the "family of survivors" and help walk this walk of healing with you.

Do this one exercise for today: Visualize yourself as feeling peaceful. Think of a calm flowing stream. Close your eyes and listen to the gentle sounds of nature about you. Picture fields of fresh green grass and lovely flowers. Think of the most peaceful scene you can ever imagine....for me that would be walking along the shore of a seculded beach where the only thing I can see for miles and miles is the gorgeous blue sky and blue water. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly as you are thinking peaceful thoughts and visualizing peaceful places.

Finally, when you feel yourself being overcome with fear, doubt, stress, and anxiety, bring these peaceful thoughts and visions to mind and feel the peaceful calm enter your body and mind. Use this as one of your coping skills in difficult situations. It works every time!

Have a wonderful day today! Living life fully is a choice, and it is my hope that you will join me in the choice to have a beautiful day today!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Healing Can Be Found When We Look

So many times we want to just give up, give in, or check out when life becomes too heavy for us. I know because I've been there ...... not just once, but many times. I've been to the point of feeling like there was no hope could only get worse, not better.

BUT, something began to click for me, and it can click for you, too. For me, the catalyst was a rainbow. I remember it so well. I was crying, I was sobbing, as I was driving along the old country road that leads to home. I felt helpless and hopeless. I had recently delivered a stillborn baby boy, and my life fell apart. My heart was shattered.....I no longer felt alive. I felt lonely and in pain every minute of the day and night. But, there was this rainbow that appeared in the sky following a torrential downpour and some severe thunder and lightening. There in the sky was a visual reminder written against the backdrop of the universe that I was not alone. Somebody did care, and somebody was watching over me. Somebody felt the pain that I was feeling at that moment. And, that's all I really needed.....somebody....anybody to care.

From that very moment, my tears began to subside, and I was able to see things that I hadn't seen in months. I saw the silver lining that appeared on the clouds. I saw the sun peeking through the darkness. I saw the trees gently swaying in the summer breeze. I saw hope.

Nature is one of life's greatest healers. Nature is just full of miracles of all kinds....from the unfolding of a bud into a blossom to the chirping of the crickets on a warm summer night. When we seek, we will find. When we look, we will see. When we search, we will find a way.

If your heart hurts today, right at this minute, STOP. Look around you. If you are not sitting in a place that is appropriate for healing, then move. Go take a walk. Get in the car and drive to the nearest park or lake. Find some flowers and trees. Listen to the sounds of nature. Allow it to speak to you. Allow the music of nature to calm your restless soul and help fill you with peace.

Come to think of it.........I think I'm going to do just that. I'm going to go light a candle, put on some soft music, and visualize myself sitting on the shore of a beautiful ocean listening to the calm water rolling back and forth against the sand. That's my healing place....... Now, how about if you take a long, cleansing breath, and find your special place of healing.