April 2018

Let's Talk About Grief

Grief is unavoidable.  We grieve the deaths of loved ones, pets, celebrities that we felt connected to, or strangers in the news whose stories touch our hearts.  We grieve the loss of a job, a home, or a item that is irreplaceable.  We grieve following divorce, or when a close friend moves away.  We grieve the loss of our youth as we age, or the loss of mobility or function following an injury or due to disease.  We grieve.  It comes in varying degrees and accompanies us through so many parts of our lives.  And yet, as commonplace as it is, many of us hesitate to talk about it.  We might talk openly in the first days following a major grief event, but we feel the pressure to pretend that we are over it quickly and to stop talking about it for fear of making those around us uncomfortable.  Yet, by not talking about it, we model for others that not talking about it is what we expect from them as well.  If grief is so universal, why do we tend to avoid the ongoing conversations about our grief and how it shapes us through our lives and changes who we are following each loss?  Can we be the healthy models for how to bravely share our grief with others?  Who are you willing to share your grief story with, and will you be willing to listen when someone shares their grief story with you?

This month, in the first article that we share, Donna Rothert writes about how one physician's openness to talking about her daughter's death impacted Donna early in adulthood and shaped her belief that sharing helps us to heal that she continues to build upon to this day.  Then, in an article that we share from Verily, Jessica Weinberger reflects on the changes that she is seeing in society towards a more open discussion about grief.  May we all have the courage to find someone to share our story with.

Talking About It

By Donna Rothert

Years ago, sometime after I became an adult, but before I had experienced much in the way of loss, I had a doctor’s appointment with someone who was covering for my regular provider.  I wasn’t there for anything urgent and I don’t remember many details about the visit.  I do, however, remember one thing very clearly.  In the midst of the chit-chat between me and this 40ish physician, she mentioned something sweet that her daughter had done.  She then gently added “she’s passed away since then.”  After this comment, she continued to talk and move through the rest of the appointment in a calm, warm and professional manner.

I’d like to tell you that I said something kind, respectful and connecting in response to the doctor’s statements, but I highly doubt it.  I just remember being floored by the mention of a dead child.   I felt stunned, sad and awkward.  It probably showed.  It was hard for me to imagine that this woman had gotten up that day, had breakfast, dressed for work and was keeping a not all that consequential appointment with me, all while her daughter was dead.  It was also startling to me that she could talk about her daughter in such a natural and beautiful way.  After all these years, I still think about it.  It was a challenging, memorable and helpful moment for me.

“Talk about it.”  It’s advice often given to the bereaved.  We probably all have ideas as to why this is a good idea.  It can feel relieving to share feelings instead of having them bottled up inside.  Talking about the loss can also be a way to connect to others and to feel less alone.  Better talking than acting out in some more negative fashion such as overworking, drinking or drugs, right?

It may also be an important way for us to take another look at ourselves and acknowledge who and where we are.

In the pregnancy loss group I used to facilitate, whenever a new member joined, each member, beginning with those who had been in the group for awhile, would tell their baby loss story in whatever level of detail they felt comfortable doing so.  Sometimes this brought up anxiety for people as they anticipated what it might feel like to revisit the events that they experienced as so acutely painful.  There were usually tears and sometimes trembling voices.

However, as time went on and people retold their stories, they would often comment on how their stories changed as they revisited and shared them.  There were still tears and sometimes trembling voices.  But there were also different details noted as more or less important and changes in emotional resonance.  Over time, group members seemed to hold their loss less as a “hot potato” or cut-off portion of their lives and more of an integrated part of their history.   Read More...

Feeling Hearts 

Pass them around a support group, or share them with a child and ask them to talk about their "feeling heart." This soft bag contains 20 small ceramic hearts of varying textures and colors designed to provide an opportunity to express emotion. Especially in situations of grief and loss, using our tactile sense may help us "feel" instead of trying to "think" our way to healing. 

Available in bags of twenty assorted hearts  Shop Here...
Or as singles in your choice of color or a mix  Shop Here...

The Love Stone

When someone you know is alone or awaiting an outcome, give them something to hold on to. Use as “thank you” or as a welcome gift at funerals or give to friends in need.   Shop Here...

Everyone’s Talking About Grief—and for Good Reason

As the conversation about death changes, what responsibility do we each have to support each other?

by Jessica Weinberger
Originally posted on Verily

Today is someone’s worst day. Have you ever thought about that? Not the “work sucks, and I have five loads of laundry to do tonight” kind of bad day. This is someone’s worst day ever—the kind that is heartbreaking and life-altering.

Just as we’re heading out the door to begin the workday, coffee in hand and laptop bag swung over our shoulders, someone is holding their favorite person’s hand beside a hospital bed for their final moments. Someone else is standing dumbfounded in a bedroom closet, staring at a lineup of clothes wondering which black outfit is best for a funeral. And someone else is marking a somber anniversary, wondering how to honor a loved one on the date he or she died.

Grief is universal. This vast sea of emotions and memories accompany each of us who experience a significant loss. Even if we put it off for years, it will always rise to the surface—just ask Prince Harry. But universality doesn’t automatically translate to understanding or the support needed to sustain the all-encompassing journey.

When coping with grief, older generations subscribed to the popular yet ineffective “push it down” method—don’t talk about it, ignore it, and it will go away. Anthropologist Margaret Mead summed it by saying: “When a person is born we rejoice and when they’re married we jubilate, but when they die we try to pretend nothing has happened.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross made waves when she introduced the five stages of grief in 1969, but many unknowing grievers began to only see their private experience in the confines of a linear path. Which stage am I in? Is this the angry stage? Am I at acceptance yet?

But today, hushed whispers about a once-taboo topic are evolving into carefully laid conversations. From Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg’s memoir Option B to tear-jerking, so-real-you-can-feel-it episodes of This Is Us, to local support groups and broad-reaching social network groups, grief is finally emerging from the shadows.

We're talking about death differently.  


The Invisible String

"That's impossible", said twins Jeremy & Liza after their Mom told them they're all connected by this thing called an Invisible String. "What kind of string"? They asked with a puzzled look to which Mom replied, "An Invisible String made of love." That's where the story begins. A story that teaches of the tie that really binds. The Invisible String reaches from heart to heart. Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach, anyway? Does it ever go away? Read all about it! THE INVISIBLE STRING is a very simple approach to overcoming the fear of loneliness or separation with an imaginative flair that children can easily identify with and remember.   Shop Here...

Tear Soup

A Recipe for Healing After Loss
If you are going to buy only one book on grief, this is the one to get. It will validate your grief experience, and you can share it with your children. You can leave it on the coffee table so others will pick it up, read it, and then better appreciate your grieving time. The “tips” section at the back of the book is rich with wisdom and concrete recommendations.   
Shop Here...


by Coldplay

Oh brother, I can't, I can't get through
I've been trying hard to reach you 'cause I don' know what to do
Oh brother, I can't believe it's true
I'm so scared about the future, and I wanna talk to you
Oh, I wanna talk to you

You can take a picture of something you see
In the future where will I be?
You can climb a ladder up to the sun
Or a write a song nobody has sung
Or do something that's never been done

Are you lost or incomplete?
Do you feel like a puzzle, you can't find your missing piece?
Tell me, how do you feel?
Well, I feel like they're talking in a language I don't speak
And they're talking it to me

Quote of the Month

I wanted to talk to someone. But who? It’s moments like this, when you need someone the most, that your world seems smallest.   David Levithan, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

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MISSION: The Grief Watch mission is to offer spiritual, emotional and other support to persons who are grieving and the professional caregivers who assist them.  For more information about us please visit our info page.

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