Sometimes the hardest goodbye
opens the door to the sweetest hello.
“I‘ve got to close some doors before I can be open to something new,” a sage friend said to me last week.
She’s right. And so I’ll just let the idea sit right here so we can think about how that might have applied in our life or is applying now.
And if you are inclined, tell us about it in the comments.
Grief’s a funny thing. We don’t want to talk about it and yet, sometimes we do. There are times when we want to tell stories, remember the good times, the funny things, the things that touch our heart.
Sometimes we wan to tell the same story over and over because it’s comforting. Maybe we worry that no one wants to hear our repetitive stories. Maybe we think they’ve moved on. But we’re still in active mourning.
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve
We quietly silently berate ourselves with would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, things we might (or might not) want to share with others.
Psychologists tell us that “stuffing” those feeling, tamping them down, covering them up isn’t good for us. Healing comes with expression. Mourning is necessary. Grief must be processed in a healthy way.
Processing grief is necessary
That’s why I wrote the beautiful workbook called A Guided Journal Through Grief. It’s a safe place to say all the hard things, the things we don’t want to share with anyone or the happy things we want to remember. Each page has a “prompt”–a question, an idea, an activity. You can respond to them by writing, drawing, painting or even making a little collage. There are ideas for rituals, meditations and other comforting things to do.
When you’re done, it can either become a beautiful memento of your loved one, maybe one you can share with a child when they grow up OR you can burn it in a ritual of your own.
Customers sometimes get several and work through them in memory of several loved ones. They’re that affordable.
If you’d like to learn more and also see a short video on how to use a guided journal (scroll down on the page for that) visit its page here on the site. You might also be interested in the companion deck of grief affirmations, found here. Or our beautiful, gentle condolence gifts.
We were once lovers. We could have married and built a family, but we didn’t. He wanted to; I thought it wouldn’t work. Still, he was someone I cared about and who cared about me.
He died unexpectedly last week.
One of the nicest men I ever dated: a sweet and soft-hearted guy. That’s not to say he was a pushover. No, not a pushover. It’s something I find out pretty early in a relationship because I am, after all, who I am.
But this is about him.
Or is it?
He had a big presence in his community; everyone knew him. Some pretty major accomplishments under his belt, too. Have you ever been to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.? He was its chief marketing strategist, largely responsible for securing the tens of millions it took to get it built. $110 million, to be exact and that ain’t hay.
It was sudden, his death. Unexpected. It took everyone in his sphere by surprise, including me. On Facebook, there was an outpouring of love, affection, tributes and yes, shock. Every day I’d check to see who said what about this man and what I might learn from it. I’d puzzle over this untimely passing, replaying our last conversation in November.
And then, a week later, after the announcement of the memorial service, his page went silent. Quiet. Nothing. No more comments. No more thoughts and prayers. Nothing.
Everyone, it seemed, had gone back to their lives. He was a memory, now. Just a memory. Maybe not forgotten. But part of the past.
A Go Fund Me went up to help with final expenses. Two days later it stood at $75. For.a man who had raised tens of millions for his community.
I knew hard times had befallen him this past year because he called me to talk about it. Health issues. Career issues. Money issues.
I had to wonder how many of these big players in his community saw his struggle and had stepped up. Offered some work. Extended a hand. None, I would guess.
And even now, they were back to their lives, business as usual.
Not me, though. I wasn’t back to business at all. I couldn’t stop thinking about the loss of this man, not even 65 years old yet. How he had given his heart and soul for so many and gotten back so little. How only two people offered a few bucks toward his final expenses.
And I wondered about what it all meant, this life of ours. Here today, gone tomorrow. In an instant, he ceased to exist physically and perhaps in the minds of some of the men he considered friends and colleagues. Poof. Gone.
I looked at the Go Fund Me a few times. I have given to more than a few over the years, but I didn’t give to this one. He is gone. My chance to really help passed with him.
Then I wondered how that made me any different from all those others in his life who failed to step up, either before or after his death.
Of course, it wasn’t really true that I didn’t help at all. I did. I didn’t send him a check, but I had a very long conversation with him full of ways he could gin up quick consulting work among his friends and colleagues.
Those same ones who are so quiet now.
While I was in Sedona, I talked to a good friend about it. She brought up the value of teaching someone to fish, rather than feeding them. I got that.
And yet, I felt I could have done more. Could I have? Should I have?
I had a text exchange about this with a dear sister-friend who knew him, knew us and knew the situation because I’d confided it to her months ago. I told her how disquieted I felt about it all.
“It’s always hard to know what the right thing to do is,” I texted.
She wrote back, “Your heart is so tender and when you care someone it is real–sending you a hug.”
True and true.
And yet this whole thing has left me unsettled to a surprising degree.
I have regrets I didn’t step up, because I could have. And yet, I think, “It’s complicated.”
But as I look at it now, I ask myself, “was it as complicated as I worried it was?”
A friend was in need, that was the bottom line.
If we’re awake and aware we learn from everything in life. And for me, this was a big lesson and a painful one.
If you have any words of wisdom or even thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them.
Grief support can be tricky.
It’s always hard to know how to lend support to loved ones who are grieving. I never like getting flowers because they seem celebratory and even cloying. In some cultures, a card and money are given. That doesn’t seem right, either. It’s not a wedding.
The best of all support options is to spend time with the person who is grieving. But sometimes, we’re too far away to do that. Sure, we can call, and that’s an especially nice thing to do after everyone has gone and the inevitable loneliness sets in. Calls are wonderful ways to show support.
When you can’t lend support in person
On top of that, though, and especially if you are distant, it’s nice to send a little something and that’s how I came up with these gentle, beautiful grief affirmation cards. They’re a thought a day for 50 days, meant to help folks honor and work through their grief.
Honoring grief means not pretending it goes away. It’s accepting grieving as part of life and finding a way to feel through it. These affirmations help folks do that.
There are 50 cards in a deck and some clients tell me they pull the deck out each time they suffer a loss because the thoughts on the cards are so helpful.
The affirmations can be used as a meditation thought or just something to think about each morning and throughout the day.
Pretty inside and out
They come in a pretty, lavender organza bag and are compact enough to fit in a pocket or handbag.
The cards are included in my two condolence gift packages but can also be purchased separately. At $14.95, they are super-affordable. And through the weekend, shipping on the grief affirmation deck is absolutely free.
You can find the cards here on this site, and for free shipping through Sunday night enter the checkout code Cards.
Here’s the thing: there’s just no getting around grief. You have to deal with it.
You can’t put it on the back burner because it insistently makes its painful presence known. “Pay attention to me!” it calls out, with every tear, every sad thought, with every pang of the heart.
So how do we deal with it? The answer is simpler than we might think. It’s just not very palatable.
We deal with grief by allowing ourselves to feel it. By crying when we have to. By thinking of our loved one. By remembering. I know, it’s painful. Been there. Still there. And I’ll remain there as long as I have to. Because grief operates on its own timetable.
Of course, after a while, we worry our friends and family are getting tired of our grief. Maybe that’s unfounded. Maybe they don’t feel that way at all.
Or maybe they do. Maybe they just don’t understand how grief works. Maybe they haven’t yet suffered a deep loss of their own. Maybe they don’t know how to respond. All those things can be true.
And what’s also true is grief is a walk we take alone. Our own personal journey. No one can share our own brand of grief.
That, my friends, is the thought behind the Guided Journal through Grief I wrote. Because I know that “dealing” with grief is really “feeling” it. Reminiscing. Crying. And also laughing as we remember the happy times.
Each page of the journal has an activity, an idea or a prompt. Respond to the prompt by writing, drawing, or even making a mini-collage. And in that way, page by page, we remember our loved ones and we work with our grief. We do that so that our grief doesn’t control us. It’s a part of us and always will be (as is our loved one) but in time it won’t have the power over our daily lives that it does if we try to tamp it down or push it away.
Or if we try to avoid it because we think our loved ones are tired of hearing it. This is a safe place to get those feelings out. To feel them.
Customers who have used the journal say good things about it. Customers who have given the journal alone as a gift or as part of our larger bereavement gift say it is appreciated. And everyone appreciates its low price.
If you’d like to learn more you can find the journal here on this site at the grief tab or at my Etsy shop, where it’s gotten 5 star reviews.
And if you’d like someone to find this gift under the tree, there’s still time to make Santa’s sleigh. But hurry!
Grief at the holidays can be a killer.
I should know: Four of my loved ones made their transition during this holiday period. In fact, we buried my mother on a Christmas Eve. BFF died a few days after Christmas.My grandfather died during the Thanksgiving holiday. So did Riley.
So here are a few ways to manage grief at the holidays:
There’s no avoiding it
The big thing is that you simply can’t avoid the grief. So don’t even try.
Your loved one was a valued part of your life then and still is. So: invite them to the holiday table. Raise a glass to them. Be grateful for the love you shared. What a blessing!
And especially be grateful that they are still ever-present in your life. They’re not gone at all. They’re just around the corner. The next plane. Right here, even though we can’t see them. We carry them with us all the time and that IS a blessing.
I’m thinking of a mother I know whose baby passed in the first few months. Her daughter is part of her life in a significant way and is now also part of the lives of her two other children. They recognize grief is part of life and mark each anniversary together as a family. It’s loving and it’s healthy for all.
It can be painful.
But, you say: “The grief.”
Grief is just love that thinks it has no place to go. But since our loved ones are really not dead to us–they live in our hearts–it DOES have a place to go. Your heart.
Grief is a reminder of the love we shared and still share, because love never dies.
As for the tears? Oh, I have them, too. Let them flow and wash away sadness as you celebrate the beautiful spirit that is still in your life and the joy that you loved one another.
Since they aren’t really gone…
Invite them to your happy holiday. And bask in that ongoing love you share.
If you’d like additional support, please check out our grief products here on this page.