Friday, February 28, 2014

"A Good Day" With Brother David Steindl-Rast

The beautiful meditation by Br David Steindl-Rast with music by
Gary Malkin is produced and copyrighted by

Enjoy !

Sunday, February 16, 2014

glimpses of freedom

When complicated grief descends upon us, we lose our sense of freedom almost completely.  We feel trapped in a shadowy and dense fog of unreality that feels impossible to penetrate.  Even as that fog lifts and we can recognize that there are some good parts of our life still available to us, the loss of lightheartedness, delight remains.  

I remember when I realized that I needed help to regenerate my ability to feel even the slightest glimpse of lightheartedness.  Compassionate and skilled therapy was helping me to not be afraid of the sadness and to plow my way through the web of questions that encumbered me, but how could I find that breath of freedom that my heart so desperately needed? 

It was about that time that our daughter gave me a beautiful porcelain necklace bearing the image of two birds intertwined.  Birds have always been my messengers of peace – a sort of serendipitous cosmic smile given to me in unsuspecting moments.  This has been especially true since our son died.  He loved birds, studied them as a wildlife biologist and could mimic the unique songs of countless species.  So, when I’ve been blessed to be aware of their presence in my day, it has felt like a visit from him.   

Along with this precious gift from my daughter an explanation of the Celtic image of the necklace.  It says:

“Birds play a prominent role in Celtic myth and legend.  As symbols of freedom and transcendence, they represent the human soul in flight, liberated from earthly ties, able to soar in spiritual communication with the heavens. Returning to earth they bring messages of prophecy and guidance, aiding mortals in their spiritual and earthly journeys.  As spirits of the air, they provide a link between the soul and the spiritual forces of the heavens. “

In the numbness of the days after our son died, I felt the distinct release of his spirit from this earthly realm.  I sensed his freedom from the constraints of our tangible existence and was washed in his invisible joy.  It was hard to keep my balance, at first, between that comfort and the visceral pain of loss I also felt.  But I am growing better at choosing to dwell on his joy. 

So, next time you are covered by the fog of sadness, go outside . . .   listen for the birds, watch them float on the air with their characteristic effortlessness and let their trust in the moment lift your heart.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

balanced between grief and gratitude


Deep grief can literally give you whiplash !

First you try to take in all that is lost . . .
            the dreams that will never be,
            the deafening absence,
            the precious reminders of the presence of this child 
                    that literally rip a hole in your heart each time you see them

and, at the same time, you try to take in all the amazing gratitude you feel . . . ,
            for the unforgettable moments you have been given,
            for the vivid memories that replay like a beloved movie in your mind, and
            for the amazing gift of a love as immense as this ?   

Grief is so confusing !  It is packed with both of these heavy opposites.   So, we careen from one to the other like a marble in a pinball machine – bouncing first one way then another.  It is enough to make you crazy !   It does make you crazy.

I carry an image in my mind of what healing looks like.  It is standing with both feet planted firmly on the earth, arms outstretched, palms up . . . holding the son I have lost in one hand and the son I have been so graciously given to love in the other.   In my better moments, I am balanced between these two truths.   And, I believe that healing is learning to keep this balance until it becomes so familiar to us that we do it without thinking. . . . gently holding one reality and then the other . . . . accepting the truth of both. 

One of the wise moms in my support group recently described what she called  “the purpose of suffering”.  She said that she suffers in order to fully know, deep in her heart, how precious her child was and is.   Without the suffering, she says, “it would be as if the death of her child didn’t matter”.  

This mom is standing , with feet planted firmly on the earth, holding the truth of her loss in one hand and the truth of her gratitude in the other.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

the power of the pause

It is very early in the morning and I am sitting in a car dealership waiting area while my car 
is being serviced.  You know, that necessary couple of hours it takes while those who know 
about my car make sure it keeps running smoothly.   I try to be timely with these 
responsibilities so that my car doesn’t develop a problem that leaves me stranded somewhere.  
It is not my favorite thing, but something I make time for. 

Grief takes similar attention.  The deeper needs that grief creates must be tended to.  And even
though we know this, we often resist paying that painful attention. Understandably, we would
rather feel anything than the deep and hollow sadness of loss, so we avoid the moments that 
give rise to them.  Grief can also carry such intense memories that we become afraid to 
surrender to them for fear we might never regain the composure we need to merely get through
the day.  So we tend to push them deeper and deeper . . . hoping that, somehow, in time,  
they will disappear altogether.   

But, of course, that doesn’t work . . . and like my car, if I neglect taking care of my heart, 
its backlog of feeling can emerge when I am least prepared to deal with it.

Once again we run into that awareness that this is not an “either/or” situation, but “both /and”.
We do not have the luxury to choose between each day’s demands and the time it takes to heal
 from grief.  Both are necessary.  So, how can we learn to manage ?

There are several ways that are so important they are worthy of taping to your bathroom 
-       be clear about what is truly necessary to do – let the rest go
-       be gentle about what you expect of yourself and others
-       know what gives you energy and what drains it from you, then minimize the 
        people and moments that are draining. 

Another helpful reminder is to recognize the “power of the pause”.  When we take the time to 
stop, take a deep breath and collect ourselves in the present moment, we give our spirits time 
to catch up with our bodies.  Giving ourselves a regular “dose” of moments in which we focus 
on what we feel inside is critical.  The more concrete we can be about this the better.  When 
we give ourselves this kind of compassionate care and attention, we gradually learn the 
balance of living in the clear minded reality of both loss and blessing. . . . both sorrow and