How do we find our way through life? That IS the question, isn’t it? Because life doesn’t promise a smooth trajectory.
People look for spiritual guidance, read self-help books, go to therapy– all with the goal of figuring out how to move forward after tough times or even a trauma.
One thing I’ve found comforting is to understand that there IS no manual for life. We just have to live it. And we have to make mistakes.
When I find myself the most broken, it helps to understand that I’ve been drawn to that exact scenario (yes, even if it’s really, really hard) and that my brokenness is simply the Divine providing me with an opportunity to rearrange the pieces of my life and maybe even add or subtract a couple.
When we’re hurting the most, consider it pain from the broken pieces being put back together. Sometimes the pieces are put back much as they were, only reinforced to be stronger. Other times, it’s an entirely new design, with pieces in a different formation and maybe even a few new ones, while some that no longer serve us might be dropped off.
Whether it’s due to trauma or other hard times, we break and are put back together many times in our life.
That IS the work of life.
Did you know I do past life regressions? Find out more here. I hope you will also consider our gentle, supportive gifts for grief and healing, right here.
I woke in the middle of the night in disbelief: my friend Audrey is dead.
A young 58, fit, active, vibrant –seemingly out of nowhere she had a massive heart attack and just like that: gone to the next place. She was offered a seat on a rocket ship and off she went, leaving us behind. And a big void.
How could this be? I know many people older, or in more precarious health situations, and yet, it’s Audrey who made her transition. Young.
I saw her last a couple years ago when I was in her Canadian province. We had a glass of wine together and a nice afternoon. I can picture us, still, in the lounge, hanging out. Not knowing that her days here would come to a close sooner, rather than later.
Life is made up of many little moments like that. We do not recognize their significance until later.
We didn’t talk often, but our friendship began more than a decade ago with conversation about some deep issues she was facing, people behaving badly, and we were always happy to meet again when we saw each other in person or online.
Audrey is dead. A woman more than 10 years younger than I. With a husband and mostly grown children.
It’s puzzling and so hard to process.
Grief can be that way. In fact, grief can be any way, really. It can show itself in deep, guttural sobs, a sprinkling of tears or the puzzled question, “How could this be?”
The flurry of shocked posts from friends on her Facebook page has now tapered off. Facebook is of this earth and her page will continue to be quiet now. If her family keeps the page, people will post little messages to her from time to time, like, “I miss you today.” But she’s moved on. And those of us still here go on with our own lives.
I think it will take some time before my brow unfurrows and I stop asking, How could this be?
Right now, though, Audrey is in my thoughts.
Awake, engaged, involved and always evolving, that’s how I will always think of her, sitting with me in that Toronto lounge enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation.
Many helpful products are available to help with grief –both for ourselves and as condolence gifts for those we love. See them all here.
If you think death ends relationships, think again. Because it’s entirely possible to continue, evolve or begin a relationship with someone after they have made their transition. And that’s the premise of the memoir, Starting with Goodbye.
The author, Lisa Romeo ,has been my writing coach for more than a decade. I’ve been a published writer since I was 16, I’m 69 and yes, I still use a writing coach/editor. That outside look, the keen eye she provides, is necessary.
When I heard her memoir was out, I couldn’t wait to read it. It did not disappoint. Here’s my conversation with her.
When someone asks what your book is about, how do you describe it?
I say it’s about the unpredictability of grief, and about how a relationship can still evolve even when one person is gone. I often quote the late playwright Robert Anderson who said, “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind towards some resolution which it never finds.”
What was the hardest thing about writing the memoir?
During the revision process, working through how to portray the sibling relationship with my (living) brother. I wanted to be as honest as I could–because there’s no sense in sugar-coating the very real and challenging ways in which our father’s failing health, death, and post-death time periods tore holes in the fabric of that relationship. (In fact, many readers tell me they appreciate that I included those arguments, disagreements, and attendant ugly feelings.). And yet, one wants to be compassionate too, and not completely alienate others. I think I arrived at a reasonable solution. Well, my brother is still talking to me anyway. Sometimes.
You seemed pretty calm and collected about your father’s appearance after death. Had you other similar experiences with loved ones in the past?
Not personally, but I never thought of the idea of the dead visiting us to be very strange. I was more curious than anything else, and since talking didn’t always come easy to us in life, I welcomed the idea of getting more time to be in the conversation.
When I was in my early 20’s and living in southern California, once a week I drove to Los Angeles to take an evening acting class and stayed overnight at my cousin Larry’s house in Hollywood. He was an actor and we stayed up late, me listening to his on-set stories. Many times, after I finally went to bed, I’d hear him in the living room talking, a one-sided conversation. This was in the early 1980s; I assumed he was on the telephone to someone back east. Finally, after a few months of this, I asked him who he was talking to. “My mom,” he replied. “She visits me a few nights a week and we talk.” She’d died many years earlier. I just accepted this; in a funny way, it made sense to me.
How concerned were you about revealing this in your memoir–in fact, making it a focal point?
I went through a period where I was concerned readers would either think I was lying or else I was a loon. But when writing a memoir, your story is your story; you can’t change the essential elements to make it more palatable for readers and still feel right. So, in the end—and I might add, after good advice from my publisher—I decided to let the readers come to their own conclusions.
I think that was the right decision because I keep hearing from readers—especially when we get a chance to meet in person—that they had similar experiences after losing a loved one, but had always been reluctant to reveal it, afraid friends and relatives wouldn’t believe them, or maybe pat them on the head and suggest a therapist. That’s what’s so personally satisfying about memoir: you let your story into the world, worried and unsure, and find it helps others free up their own stories.
You were brutally honest–some would say even hard on yourself — in the book. What was it like to see those intimate thoughts about yourself on the page and to think others would read them?
If you had seen some very early drafts, you might think the opposite—that in the book I’m actually less harsh on myself than I originally felt about my behavior. I’ve always been very hard on myself and that shows up on the page.
I’ve never had any qualms about revealing myself to readers; if you are going to write about your life, you must be willing to let your flaws and warts show—to show up on the page utterly human, all your foibles on display. To my mind, anything less, any glossing over or prettying up one’s part in the past, wouldn’t connect honestly with readers. We’re all full of faults, broken in places. In the memoir, the narrator stands in for the reader, so she (I) had to be that flawed human being.
Did any of the responses to the book surprise you?
When you’re waiting for a memoir to be published, I think most authors anticipate all the possible scenarios and responses. I knew some folks wouldn’t care for the “talking to my dead father” sections and I did get some skeptics, who poked me in the ribs and winked, saying, “Yeah, but that part’s made up, right?” One odd moment was when someone at a book event told me I was secretly embarrassed by my family’s Italian heritage; this took place at a gathering celebrating Italian-American artists, so I was thoroughly confused by the remark!
Mostly though, readers have been wonderful. Many have sent me heartfelt, beautiful notes about their own grief experiences, how they’ve connected with their departed loved ones, and it’s been such a privilege that they’ve trusted me with those stories. I had one lovely experience at a bookstore in the Boston area when members of a Jewish book club came to the reading and afterward stayed to chat with me—an Italian, lapsed Catholic girl—about families.
What’s next for you? What are you working on?
I was working on a memoir based on returning to (horseback) riding, after a 25-year hiatus. I once owned (well, more accurately, my father owned!) six horses, rode on the show circuit, judged horse shows, etc., from age 14 until 34. I was five months into that, riding twice a week, when the pandemic closed the stable to those who didn’t own their own horses. So I set that manuscript aside, and went back to working on an essay collection (or maybe memoir-in-essays?) I had started before and will finish this fall. We’ll see.
Do you meet with online book clubs if they ask?
Yes, certainly, and I love doing that! Sometimes, we play a little trivia game, and I send out small prizes in the mail afterward.
Find the book right here.
And this is Lisa’s website, where you can connect with her. If you’ve got any comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the Comments, below.
Let it hurt.
Let it bleed.
Let it heal.
And let it go.
Is there anything more painful than family wounds? I don’t think there is and I speak from experience.
That pain is much like grief. Heck, it IS grief, isn’t it? It’s the death of how we hoped our family would be. Our dreams.
Speaking from experience I can say with confidence that wounds inflicted by family — within the family — do not have to drive us in any way.They can pass over us without long-term impact, as long as we’re willing to do the work.
This is the very best advice I’ve ever seen:
Let it hurt.
Let it bleed.
Let it heal.
And let it go.
Massage the wound. Feel through the pain. Don’t be afraid to let it out, all of it. Cry, scream, wail and gnash your teeth if it helps.
And then, in time, it will begin to heal.
You’ll see that you no longer need that wound. It’s lost its power over your life.
And once it is healed, let it go.
This is entirely possible. I know because I did it.
You can, too.
So many people are struggling at the moment. No one likes their activities to be restricted and yet the options are stark: eliminate most activities we know and love or looked forward to — or risk death or terrible, llngering side effects.
Yes, there are those who don’t connect with the risk, but I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to YOU. Those of you who are worried and/or vulnerable. Those who have learned enough about the virus to want to steer clear. Those who value what they hope lies ahead and want to preserve those options for the still unknown future.
Yes, I’m talking to you.
It’s important to feel your concerns and fears. To voice them to trusted friends who know how to listen. We have to get those feelings out. Because the struggle is real and we all share it.
And then? It’s important to let them go. Because living with resentment and the feeling we’ve been cheated is no way to live. It’s also not a good thing to model for the kids in our lives.
It’s not useful, either, because there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. The virus will run its course in months or even years and we will have to adapt — or live in constant grief for the way it was.
Life is not the way it was and may not ever be the way it was. We may never go back to those carefree days, or at least not for a very long time. The struggle with that is real, but it is also futile. And harmful to our mental and physical health, both.
We’re taught to be masters of our own destiny. To create our lives. To manifest our desires.
Apparently, the Universe has other ideas at the moment.
So here’s how to manage through this period:
Accept that at this moment, we are completely powerless over something: the virus. But this isn’t forever. It’s just right now.
Realize that we do have power and agency over our own actions and our own thoughts.
Consider whether you accept our obligation to our fellow man and to ourselves and want to keep everyone safe. Or if you are bound and determined to do what you want, regardless of others.
Once you’ve expressed your emotions and gotten them all out, move forward. Accept that this is how life is at the moment and find positive ways to work within that.
There are any number of online resources with suggestions for things we can do to make life more interesting: video calls and parties, reading, streaming, walks, learning music on line or a new language. Or just taking time for yourself to do nothing.
Resources also abound for jobs that are opening up. New kinds of jobs. Or new to you. Check into it all. And there are relief programs. It’s all imperfect, but every day I see people fitting solutions together. Not the solutions they necessarily wanted, but effective stop-gap solutions.
Any emphasis on what we AREN”T able to do just isn’t useful to a healthy life during this pandemic. Attitude is everything.
It’s pretty clear that we’ll never see our old lives back. But. Eventually, the risk will be lower. Eventually a new way of life will develop. We will learn new ways of living and working and relating.
We’ll grieve the old ways for a long time. But right now, as so many of us are focused on survival, it’s helpful to set that grief aside for a bit as we maintain good mental and physical health to manage through what’s in front of us. Let the Universe unfold as it will. Go on with your life as it is right now.
This is not my usual counsel on grief. But this is what I’ve come to see as most useful at the moment.
If you’d like to consider some hypnotherapy to help with anxious thoughts or a regression by Zoom, let’s talk about it. First, visit the home page here and see the tabs for hypnotherapy and for regression, then schedule a call to discuss it. It’s easy.
That’s what I’ve got for you today. Thank you for being part of my community. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Some people think it’s not possible to truly grieve something you never had. I don’t agree.
Grief over what you never had is as powerful an emotion as any other loss. Because all loss is the same. All grief is the same. And that’s where we’ll begin.
If you have a miscarriage or stillbirth, is your grief the same as a parent who has lost a child they got to know alive?
YES. Your grief is the same. All loss is … loss. There’s a void, even if it has never been filled.
If you lose a beloved pet is your grief like that of losing a parent?
YES. Grief is grief. It is the same.
There is no comparing grief. It’s painful, it’s hard, it can be long-lasting and it is all the same: GRIEF.
What if you are grieving a father you never had, a sister who never warmed to you?
It’s all grief. It’s all loss.
Comparisons are fruitless.
Grief is grief.
The remedy for any kind of grief, if there is one, is to sit with it. As difficult a companion as it can be, we must sit with it. Feel it. Let it take its course. No matter how long it takes.
If necessary, get help. But help or not, there’s only one thing to do with grief. Sit with it.
If you’d like to help sitting with your grief or want to someone you love sit with theirs, please check out our products that help with that.