The Significance of Ritual in Integrating Feelings of Loss

tree-festival-leaf-001Community builder, hypnotherapist, writer Carolyn Shaffer tells about her unique loss experience and the significance of ritual in integrating the feelings of loss and receiving support.

Courageous Grief Talk 04/02/2014

Courageous Grief Talk – KSKQ 89.5 community radio Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.

Losses related to Motherhood and Other Disenfranchised Grief

kani-comstock-book-coverThis week Kani Comstock author of “Honoring Missed Motherhood: Loss, Choice, and Creativity” joins Julie and Susanne to discuss losses related to motherhood and disenfranchised grief in our culture.

Courageous Grief Talk 03/26/2014

Courageous Grief Talk  – KSKQ 89.5 community radio Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.

Listen to Julie’s radio show on the value of grief support

Julie  Susanne KSKQ Feb2014Listen to Julie’s radio show and the value of grief support as she and Susanne Severeid speak with Toni Lovaglia about the value of the group experience in processing loss.

Courageous Grief Talk 03/12/2014

Courageous Grief Talk – KSKQ 89.5 community radio Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.

Grieving a difficult relationship

IrisGrieving difficult relationshipsby Julie Lockhart, Executive Director, © WinterSpring

The writings about grief and loss so often speak to missing the person who is gone, and perhaps longing for their physical presence again—especially during birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.  Yet, more often than we might guess, a relationship may have been difficult.  For example, a parent might have been overly critical, and perhaps behaved badly at Thanksgiving dinners.  Difficult relationships bring complex and conflicting emotions to the surface, including shame for not feeling “what you are supposed to feel” about the person who died.  And especially as we go through special occasions, these difficult emotions may get in the way of simple pleasures.  Sometimes our grief isn’t as much about the death as it is about a relationship that will never be how we would have wanted it—a connection that never was loving and now that person is no longer here for us to find some reconciliation.

Writer Andrea Heeres shares that expressing the truth about difficult feelings in a safe setting can help the healing process.  “A journal is a safe place…you might write a letter to the person who has hurt you…” (Grieving the Difficult Relationship, Bereavement Magazine, January/February 2004).  She also suggests exercise, healthy eating and getting rest, because moving through the long-standing pain takes strength.

Participation in a WinterSpring support group can help individuals process such difficult emotions in a safe environment.  “I experienced such relief when my father died, because he was always so mean to my mother and me,” said a recent group participant, almost in a whisper because of her shame for feeling that way about her dad.  Her brave comment opened the way for others in the group to share similar difficult emotions.  The facilitators reported afterward that because of this honest sharing, the energy of each of these participants seemed brighter at the end of that group session.  Many of the participants expressed relief that they could share such heavy emotions.

If you have experienced difficult emotions around the death of a loved one, seek a safe place to share your truth.  And if you are supporting a bereaved person, be aware that the emotions they express may be unexpected, even shocking, as they grapple with the complexity of their grief.  Most important is kindness and compassion for yourself and others who have endured these difficult relationships with those we love.

Give yourself the freedom to grieve in your own way.

I really like Dr. Nancy Berns’ article on grieving, especially this quote:  “Treating grief as a disease threatens our freedom to grieve.”  She supports people grieving in their own way and debunks the commonly accepted idea that grief needs to follow five stages:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  At WinterSpring, we’re not afraid to be with loss for as long as it takes people to embrace life again.

A beautiful story of living after deep loss

Grief brings chaos, healing brings balance

This post comes from WinterSpring Board Member, Jim Titus:

As I look at Denise Kester’s monotype print “Out of chaos comes the dance of balance,” I find my head and heart align.  Grief is indeed one place where I have found chaos and confusion.  But it has also become my surest path to personal growth and enlightenment.

Something that most of us seem to discover, sooner or later in life, is that we are not invincible, not really “in control” as we might like to be, but that we can, and usually do, find a way through the whirlpool of life.  We are children of many losses; but we are also survivors.  Sometimes we need a little help from others to  find our way – sometimes a lot of help.  It is a major step to discover that we are not alone; there are plenty of others who have traveled similar roads and who are willing to share their stories. 

The best discovery of all is that of our own inner spaces where our worst fears lurk, but where strength, renewal and life reside as well.  Loss will take us to both, if we are open – and will help heal us and make us whole, or “balanced,” to use Kester’s term.

Writing about the death of her daughter, Isabel Allende says:

My life is one of contrasts; I have learned to see both sides of the coin.  At moments of greatest success, I do not lose sight of the pain awaiting me down the road, and when I am sunk in despair, I wait for the sun I know will rise farther along.”  (Paula, p. 313)   

“I am a raft without a rudder, adrift on a sea of pain.  During these long months I have been peeling away like an onion, layer after layer, changing; I am not the same woman, my daughter has given me the opportunity to look inside myself and discover interior spaces – empty, dark, strangely peaceful – I had never explored before.  These are holy places, and to reach them I must travel a narrow road blocked with many obstacles, vanquish the beasts of imagination that jump out in my path.  When terror paralyzes me, I close my eyes and give myself to it with the sensation of sinking into storm-tossed waters.  For a few instants that are true eternity, I think I am dying, but little by little I comprehend that, despite everything, I am still alive because in the ferocious whirlpool there is a merciful shaft through which I can breathe.  Unresisting, I let myself be dragged down, and gradually the fear recedes.”  (Paula, p. 272)