Allowing for Grief

A wonderful post by my dear blogging friend, Eliza Waters, really brought up my unfinished grief over the loss of 3 of my 4 pets recently, all within a six month period. When a loss is suffered, no one can say how long it will take or when we’re ‘over it’. To feel tremendous love is to feel grief deeply. This is a part of life, and a component of healing is giving ourselves permission to feel sad. It’s a lesson I’m certainly learning these days. Even the recent season of joy and light was a rough one for me. Normally I put up the tree and my large ceramic Nativity scene as early as December 1st but this year the tree went up on the 20th and the large Nativity never came out of its box, having two smaller one-piece ones around my home subbing in for it. But these seemingly small events meant a lot to me, and showed me how sad my heart still is.

no longer at my side but always in my heartOn the bright side, our 17-year old feisty tabby girl ‘Katie’ who was adopted from the pound 15 years ago, is doing her best to help us get our ‘cat quota’ in. She mostly sticks by me, but the other day, while on my lap and my husband within ear shot, I told her that she needs to give ‘dad’ some love too, since he’s below ‘quota’. (Our Siamese ‘Ebony’ practically lived on his shoulder, especially in the last few of her 17 years). Later as we settled in to watch a program, what did she do but spend the hour in HIS lap! Good girl! He needs his cat-pats too.

Time passes and the healing comes. Achingly slow at first. Then a morning walk without thinking of Nikki for a while (as Eliza shares as well), then a whole day passes without tearing up about how much quieter our house is. Someday, when we’re ready, my husband and I will be ready to begin visiting rescue shelters to find another 4-legged ‘fur-kid’ that Katie can teach the ropes to. Until then, she’s helping us feel loved (and bossed around a bit too!).

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Image sources: 2 square images at the top are from my Pinterest boards without sources being evident. The incredible drawing of the crying eye is called ‘Don’t cry to night’ by Omar Gordillo Soto[source]. And the pawprint in the clouds is from Facebook/RainbowBridgepetloss [source]

Something Maya Taught Me

I used to happily reside in the physically descriptive category of ‘tall and slim’. Genetics really. But as my mid-life arrived with a more rounded mid-section, I saw my self-esteem fall. Rather than being a tall, slim, ‘wisp’ of a woman, I now had to accept that I’m large. Not really heavy, as I carry it well, but let’s just say I have a terrific build to have been a Viking warrior woman. Or an Amazon.

As I left the tall and slim category and became more of a big woman, I felt my spirit shrinking. I kept noticing I was head and shoulders (and fifty pounds or more) over every one I encountered and I felt a shyness growing I hadn’t experienced before. I even found myself slouching – not uncommon for tall people but something I’d never done.

Then I watched the episode of Maya Angelou talking about her life on an episode of Oprah Presents Master Class. She shared something about herself that touched me deeply as I paused and replayed the section many times. I had not realized how tall she was before. I didn’t know she was six-feet tall! I smiled and thought, Maya’s really tall too? I cheered Yes! I’m tall, just like Maya Angelou!
I felt proud to be as tall as Maya Angelou. To be able to walk like she would walk. Head held tall, face up, bright eyes forward. At last I celebrated being a tall, strong woman bringing light to the world, in my way, and that my large size is definitely a part of that. A joke came to my mind and stayed: Of course I’m large. A small body couldn’t hold this much personality!

gypsy-vannerI thank her for helping me rediscover that I have the heart and height of an Amazon. I proudly claim the responsibility that comes with having a large personality with a strong energy field housed within my tall ‘warrior woman’ body. I feel it’s important, that it is my responsibility, to remain calm, balanced, and to consistently radiate lovingkindness. I am not wispy like a fine-boned Arabian horse, but rather am more like a strong and steady Gypsy Vanner.

My love, respect and admiration for my role model Maya Angelou helped me to reclaim my self-acceptance, and therefore my power, with regards to being a large, dynamic, loving woman.

Help Those in Grief

Some Suggestions To Help Those in Grief

I would sooner bring a blanket than flowers and cards to offer genuine comfort for someone in grief. A new cozy throw can say ‘it’s okay to be not okay’ without having to put it into words. As one who adores cards I have learned through my own grief that cards didn’t help (I read them, but not until much later). If you bring flowers, bring them IN a vase or be ready to find one and cut the flowers for it. Don’t let your grieving friend prep the flowers themselves because that’s not helping the situation; it’s making them work (of course they might love the distraction of doing it, so just be aware).

Bring them food but don’t expect it to be eaten right away. Offer it and if not wanted immediately, put it in their fridge. Bring sandwiches and fresh fruit for easy snacking, and small containers of casseroles or meals that can be heated later (label contents and add directions if needed). Small nutritious meals are the best but perhaps some decadent comfort foods can help get them to eat something. Also bring nutritious beverages like tea and juice (or good coffee, but it’s wise to avoid alcohol – in my experience anyways; hangovers just make everything worse).

Allow the silence. Words mostly fail during times of tragedy anyways but being nearby can help more than you may realize. Be there without fussing over them (unless of course that comforts them but for me and many others, please don’t fuss or be too busy). Let them cry if they need to, or sleep, or rant even. Just listen. Make some tea, watch something together or sit in silence. Read on your own, and let them stare or sleep. Perhaps even reading out loud to help them fall asleep on the couch. There’s tremendous healing to be found and comfort to be offered in just being with someone.

Pray. For yourself. For your friend who is in grief. For everyone in and around the situation. People you might know and those you’ve never met. Survivors who were there. The victims’ families and loved ones. Emergency responders and doctors. Everyone who’s been affected. Pray to find your connection with Source, with God. Whatever word you use and whether you turn to the scriptures or chime a bell and meditate deeply or spend time doing yoga or going for a walk. Whatever works to bring you closer in contact with the highest, brightest source of light and love within your heart, do that! Pray so that you may shine healing Love onwards and outwards. Radiate the biggest feelings of compassion you can generate. It’s important and it helps, I believe, more than we can comprehend or realize. Praying is one of the most essential things you can do to help after a tragedy.
Copyright © 2014 Gina ~ Professions for PEACE

“Faith is not belief. Belief is passive. Faith is active.” ~Edith Hamilton

Click to view images on a Pinterest board I’ve compiled about grief

From an excellent article on helping the grieving at HelpGuide.org:
Comments to avoid when comforting the bereaved
▪ “I know how you feel.” One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
▪ “It’s part of God’s plan.” This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan.”
▪ “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
▪ “He’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
▪ “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means “forgetting” his or her loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
▪ Statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about. . .” or “You might. . .”

Be the one who takes the initiative. There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person.
You can offer to:
▪ Shop for groceries or run errands
▪ Drop off a casserole or other type of food
▪ Help with funeral arrangements
▪ Stay in their home to take phone calls and receive guests
▪ Help with insurance forms or bills
▪ Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry
▪ Watch his or her children or pick them up from school
▪ Drive him or her wherever they need to go
▪ Look after their pets
▪ Go with them to a support group meeting
▪ Accompany them on a walk
▪ Take them to lunch or a movie
▪ Share an enjoyable activity (game, puzzle, art project)
Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm

A Time For Light

“When tragedy strikes, our first human response is to react in anger and with rage in our hearts, to attempt to end such dark behavior by throwing more darkness at the problem. Yet our rational minds tell us that reacting with darkness in the form of hatred and madness simply expands and multiplies the darkness. The only answer to so much darkness is to bring light. As Saint Francis of Assisi reminded us, Where there is darkness, let me bring light.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer [source]

sunbeams out of grey

Let us pray and help bring light to this time of sadness and darkness for Calgary, Alberta. Rest in peace Lawrence Hong, Joshua Hunter, Kaitlin Perras, Zackariah Rathwell and Jordan Segura. My prayers are with all affected by this tragedy. Here are prayers from Illuminata: A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson

Prayer For The Victim of Violence

Dear God,
I have been wounded in body and soul.
My memories, my thoughts, dear Lord, are full of horror, and I am powerless to heal them.
The hatred I feel,
The pain I feel,
Is beyond my ability to deal with.
Please, dear God,
Come into my mind with your spirit, dear God,
Please wash me clean.
Take out of me this sword.
Take out of me this wound.
Take out of me this pain.
Help me forgive,
For it is beyond my power to do so myself.
Release the one who did this
And release, dear God, my heart.
I need new life.
Please give me this.
Thank you, Lord.
Amen.

Prayer For The Perpetrator

“While we strive to heal the world, the darkness is putting up a massive assault on the planet. God’s healing must extend itself, not to heal light but to heal the darkness. The perpetrator of violence may or may not be consciously horrified by his own behavior. For those who are, that horror does not always lead to the cessation of criminal behavior. As with any addictive pattern where the drive toward certain behavior overwhelms and drowns the yearning of a human conscience, it is only through the power of a genuine spiritual awakening that the deepest darkness is turned to light. For the perpetrator of wrong action, the need for prayer is great indeed. God hears all prayers. He judges no one.” ~Marianne Williamson, Illuminata p.237
Dear God,
I recognize the evil of my behavior.
I ask forgiveness for the pain I’ve caused to others.
Forgive me, God, and cleanse my heart.
May God cast out this evil from within me.
May I be returned somehow, through Your grace, dear God, to the ways of goodness.
Please bless and protect those who have been victims of my perpetration.
May my life be somehow lifted up that I might be redeemed and receive from You the chance to live the rest of my life on the path of good, through the grace of God and in service to humanity forever and forever.
Amen.

Finding Solace

Psalm 27:1
 NIV ~ The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

consolation large

“It’s been proven that the thoughts we choose

have everything to do with our emotions.

I can tell you that a commitment to feeling good

can take away a stomach ache, fear, depression, sadness,

anxiety – you name it. Any stress signal is

a way of alerting you to say the five magic words:

I want to feel good.

This is your intention to be tranquil and stress free,

and it’s a way of connecting to spirit.”

Wayne Dyer, Seven Secrets of a Joyful Life

Daily Healing

“Healing is not an overnight process; it is a daily cleansing of pain. It is a daily healing of your life.” ~ Leon Brown

Our Golden Scars

golden cracksKintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of repairing a broken bowl with golden seams along the cracks, celebrates the concept that the item is now even more beautiful for having been broken.

Many years ago when I was suffering deeply, a friend and teacher who is a Native American shaman offered me comfort with these words: A broken heart holds more. Five words that brought solace. It was a saying I mulled over, like a new flavor in the mouth, turning it, savoring it, and slowly absorbing it.

As our heart breaks open and heals over the raw exposed areas, it becomes larger. It grows. To me, it is like an island being formed from lava and transforming into a rocky outcropping soon to be covered in greenery and flourishing with life, where none had existed before. Our very woundedness that feels so barren and lifeless actually helps foster new life. New growth will appear where there was no footing for it previously. Now we are larger and we can hold more.

proud of my scars Coelho 400I have been broken. Many times. Now I feel that I am as a beautifully shining vessel, proudly mended. I feel wizened for having survived so much, such hardships I do not mention because they are old and over, but each one felt absolutely near to breaking me. My healed scars are hard-earned trophies, testimony of dark places I have survived and surmounted. I know the valley of the shadow of death, too well, and the view from the mountaintop is all the more cherished for having earned the climb.

It is in our darkest times that, I feel, we are forced to surrender. I was at least. Perhaps those who resist surrendering everything to our Higher Power remain in the valley of the shadow of death for longer than they need to. Or perhaps they keep returning there. I know I did years ago, repeating hurtful behaviors and patterns, finding myself in the same type of painful situations (that dark valley) again and again, until my knees finally hit the ground and I remembered to ask for help.

what I choose to become JungIn the early nineties Marianne Williamson wrote about suffering and learning at last to surrender. Here are excerpts I found comforting during some of my darkest times. May these words help someone today.

“Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. For many people, things have to get very bad before there’s a shift. When you truly bottom out, there comes an exhilarating release. You recognize there’s a power in the universe bigger than you are, who can do for you what you can’t do for yourself. All of a sudden, your last resort sounds like a very good idea. How ironic. You spend your whole life resisting the notion that there’s someone out there smarter than you are, and then all of a sudden you’re so relieved to know it’s true. All of a sudden, you’re not too proud to ask for help. That’s what it means to surrender to God.”  ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Even though the darker it gets the more alone we feel, we are actually never alone. But it is ourselves who must reach out and ask for help. We must reach for the Light. Let us remember. May we remember to ask for help, may we find strength within for the climb, and may we discover the exquisite beauty of our golden scars.

Namaste.
Gina

Copyright © 2014 Gina ~ Professions for PEACE