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Remembering A Life Blog

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There Are Countless Ways to Remember a Life

On the anniversary of A’s passing, I found myself sitting on a blanket facing the beautiful white cross that marks the sacred ground that now holds his body. He is buried on a mountain, in a quiet and peaceful space surrounded by tall trees about an hour away from the city I live in. On that morning, the sun was warm and the leaves were swaying softly in the wind around me and I felt profoundly grateful for the physical proximity I felt to A’s earthly body.

Are You Muted? Unmute Yourself!

What words describe 2020 for you? Closed. Cancelled. Isolated. “You’re muted.” If you haven't had a loved one get sick or die during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not recognize our society is grieving enormous losses: loss of loved ones, loss of livelihoods, loss of lifestyles. What does pandemic grief look like? I have first-hand experience with major life changes because of the pandemic.

Self-Care in Grief: More Than A Buzzword

If there is ever a time to remember the importance of self-care, it’s during your grief journey. As a therapist specializing in grief and a person who has experienced loss, I firmly believe that it is crucial to care for ourselves as we heal from the death of a loved one. Learning how to lean into the practices that carry me through my own grief has provided a vital source for healing – something we all have a right to. Self-care, however, can feel like a nebulous buzzword and even if we believe that it’s beneficial to engage in, it can be confusing to know where to begin.

Remembrance and Resonance: The 20th Anniversary of 9/11

I do not remember the color of the sky on that morning, because I was rushing to get to work in the U.S. Capitol complex, where I was a then-junior level staffer for a U.S. Congressman from New York. Similarly, I do not remember many details of the frenetic moments in the weeks that followed, which were an endless blur of ringing phones, short deadlines, worrisome news reports, fears of additional attacks, and, very soon, military action. But there is a great deal that I do remember about that day, and about the year of loss within a changed world that followed, and these memories are crystallized in my mind and inseparable from my pride in public service.

I have spent a lot – and I mean a lot – of time with my kids over the last 18 months. From one moment to the next last winter, they went from small humans I loved spending evenings and weekends with outside of work hours to 24/7 constant companions – as the months of quarantine ticked by, they were my coworkers, virtual schooling students, the only friends I saw IRL besides my husband oh, and also, my kids.  One might hope that spending so much time together has taught us everything we need to know about each other. But as you probably know, we have been in deer-in-the-headlights mode for such a long time now, and every time we think we are on the cusp of a respite, the goal posts move. So sure, I’ve spent a lot of time with them. But I can’t really call all of it “quality;” it’s more logistical, hectic, and frequently stressed. And most of the time, finding moments to have meaningful conversations is something that requires planning.

Love is Stronger than Death

I approached Sue and Ed’s house and rang the doorbell. Ed opened the front door and invited me in. He led me to their living room and explained that Sue would be joining us shortly. I sat on the couch and took several deep breaths. This married couple of more than 50 years called me to their home to help plan Sue’s funeral. She had a terminal diagnosis and was on hospice care. I previously met with Ed at the funeral home to begin the planning, and together they decided they wanted to have a group conversation with me. This was sacred space and my deep breathing helped me to be present in the moment.

Grief and Forgiveness: Finishing Unfinished Business

My study of and work in both grief support and forgiveness has helped me to see a main unifying theme between grief and forgiveness: something has happened that we wish had not happened and what is left in the wake of our disappointed expectations is the need to come to terms with what was lost and what now remains. This is at the heart of both grief-healing and the healing of issues of forgiveness.

A legacy project is a simple way to enter our children’s creative worlds and minds and give them an outlet to memorialize their person on the other side. Anything can become a legacy project, writing a book of memories together, creating a scrapbook of their favourite pictures or representing their memories and their love for their person through drawing and painting.

As a grief support activity, creating art from broken dishes can be a way to express painful feelings that go beyond or lie beneath words like shattered and broken. Emotions, thoughts and memories are given a chance to speak and be felt in the process of breaking and putting back together, offering a bridge between the sense that you or your life have been irreparably wounded, and hope that the future still holds promise, relief and healing from the pain of loss.

The Second Year of Grief

For most of us, the first year of grief is focused on adjusting to life and a world without the physical presence of our loved one in it. Even if a death was anticipated, once a loved one’s death has been memorialized, grappling with a sense of unreality and just figuring out how to survive each day can dominate how we feel and what we do.  As the second year of grief begins to unfold, unreality can give way to reality.