About admin

Hello. My name is Ishwari Sollohub. This blog is for anyone who is grieving a loss, or who knows and cares about someone else who is. My own experiences with grief and loss have shown me that it is better to open to and move THROUGH the experience, rather than shutting down and trying to protect myself from it. Choosing to be open to grief has taken me on journeys I could never have anticipated, and opened me to worlds I didn't know existed. Through the shattering and surrender of actively and willingly saying "yes" to grief, I have healed and discovered beauty, love and freedom. I hope some of what you find here will be helpful as you travel your own journey.

Post Election Grief

I am reeling in the aftermath of the recent US election. Most of the people I know are in similar straits. Shock, grief, horror, disbelief, difficulty sleeping, anger… the list goes on.

(Trump supporters: I am planning to open my heart to your perspective and your reasons for supporting him, but I am not there yet…I’ll need some time.)

It is early on as I write this – less than 48 hours since the news – and we are in the throes of trying to get our minds around what has happened, what it means, and what to expect going forward. All classic elements of grief and loss.

I am heartened, in these early stages, to hear and read about so many people realizing that it will take some time to formulate a response. That a response will be necessary, AND that right now, two days post-election, may be too soon. I am glad to see so much awareness of how we need to allow ourselves to feel, to reel for awhile, in the turbulence, and not rush to action, or reaction.

And I am worried a little about the things I am reading and hearing, that seem to be almost knee-jerk reactions: calls to resistance, plans for action, expressions of anger and rage at “those morons”, etc. I worry because these things seem to perpetuate the “them-vs-us” stance that is going to have to go at some point. Not yet, but at some point.

We WILL need to take meaningful and effective actions, and at the same time, we are probably not capable of making really good decisions or planning really positive actions quite yet. I encourage us all to wait, to feel, and to allow ourselves the time it takes to come to terms, before acting.

I keep thinking about how important Acceptance is. It’s the first part of the three-part Serenity Prayer, and it’s one of the classic stages of grief. I had a glimmer of hope today, when I remembered that Acceptance is not approval. It is not complacency, or letting the thing be OK. Real Acceptance is accepting the FACT that this has happened, is happening. Only when we accept the fact of the thing, can we begin to formulate or figure out, or be guided to a wise response.

I, for one, have a ways to go before I can even accept the fact. I woke up this morning to my partner’s words, “Oh, God, it’s still true.” Many times throughout the day, my mind jerks alive with a new fear, “Oh my God, he said THAT!”, or… “he did THAT,” or… “he’s planning to do THAT!” Acceptance, even of the fact of this, will take me some time. I’m not there.

Meanwhile, let us lick our wounds, hold close those who are dear to us, and remember that we CAN get through this, we CAN feel this terrible pain, and we WILL be in a position to act at some point, to play a role in moving forward positively and effectively. For now, let’s cry our tears; allowing ourselves to tune in to what we really need at this time, whether that’s being with people, or being alone. It is likely that we are a little “out of our minds” right now; let’s keep that in mind as we converse with others. Let’s express our anger (safely and appropriately – maybe even privately), and give extra attention to taking care of our basic physical needs. A response is going to be critically important, but it is not urgent. Let’s give ourselves time.

And let’s breathe, and breathe again, and again.

Blessings on this collective journey. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Ishwari

 

Grieving the Wounds of Childhood

Image

I’ve been thinking about how grief has so many variations. I usually address the kind that happens when we lose someone we love. This post is basically a poem, about a different kind of grief – one that many of us are familiar with, but we don’t usually call it grief. As with all other kinds of grief, the way through it, is through it.

I hope this is helpful.

Not Too Late

Grieve, now,

for the small one, fighting so hard to be big, wanting so badly to have it all together.

Grieve.

Sad things happened

or didn’t happen,

long ago, when you were too small to understand

that it wasn’t you, wasn’t anything you did wrong.

When all you could do was lash out or curl up into a ball,

whatever it took to make it go away

even for a while.

It doesn’t matter how big your sad things were, or how they compare to other people’s sad things

you’ve read about or heard about.

Whether they are bigger or smaller is of no consequence.

The saddest sad is the one you feel right now.

Grieve

for the loving arms that didn’t hold you,

when you were hurt, disappointed, scared, angry, confused, ashamed, overwhelmed.

Grieve

For the sweet voice that didn’t calm you,

didn’t know to say,

“Come here, littlest, and let me hold you while you cry

(or while you shout and kick).

You’re going to be ok little one,

just come here and I’ll hold you until you get it all out.”

Grieve

that that didn’t happen.

Not enough anyway.

Even still, I’m going to tell you that you’re ok now.

You don’t have to figure it out. Not really.

Maybe all you need is to just

grieve.

Give in, let go. Let go of the unfairness, the scariness, the way-too-bigness of it,

and know

that you are not so small now.

You can have your own back now.

Do you realize that? That it’s not too late…

but the tears might still need to flow,

there might be messy unwept weeping.

Get out the hankies.

Just because you can now understand

the realness, and have compassion for the sadness, the frustration, you felt back then

doesn’t mean the tears or the rage don’t still need to find their way through

and out.

Sadness and pain happened.

Hold your self.

Wrap your big strong, soft, warm, comforting arms around

that little him or her.

Croon a bit. Oh, my, my, my.

Find your own sweet voice

(yes, you have one).

Whisper, “I know, this is so hard. I’m right here.”

That’s all.

Maybe some rocking,

Back and forth, back and forth. There, there, there.

No fixing, no figuring it out.

Grieve.

The rest will come in due time.

Let the grieving carry you to the other side of the fear and anger, where the rest of any needed healing journey will become known.

But, first, without rushing or expecting much,

open to grief. Allow grieving.

Just you and the grief.

Let it be as big as it is. Let it be as small as it is. No pretending.

If you like, invite a trusted other, who can allow with you

and not fix, and not take it away or try to interfere. Just someone who can bear to sit with you

while you be with your grief.

You’re going to be all right. Soon. And it is so so sad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Chappy for my mom

Happy Chappy

My mother began showing signs of dementia when my second child was eight months old. She was visiting from the Seattle area, and I remember she kept asking me, “How old is Sierra now?” The third or fourth time she asked me this within a few hours, I began to wonder what was going on. When I mentioned it to one of my sisters, she didn’t seem concerned; she hadn’t noticed anything unusual. Mom returned home, and it wasn’t until a few months later that others in my family started noticing. One brother or sister at a time started asking, “What’s with Mom?” Eventually we all knew what was going on, but since her illness progressed at a very slow pace it took my father a long time to admit that Mom’s problem was serious. Her journey through Alzheimers lasted longer than many people’s; it was about 15 years before she was moved into a Memory Care facility, and another three years before she had the stroke that led to her death a couple months later.

Losing Mom was a slow and painful journey for all of us seven grown children, and particularly so for our father. Each of us experienced it in our own way, loving her so much and being powerless as we watched her disappear, bit by bit. For me, there were many many times over the years when I so needed my Mom, and yet I knew that she wasn’t able to be that for me. The loss was incremental, hard to put my finger on, and very very sad.

There was one bright spot: In her own unassuming way, Mom had always been a positive, cheerful, smiling person, and in Alzheimers, she was even more so. Toward the end, when she could no longer remember who we were, or other details of reality, it wasn’t uncommon for her to literally dance through the halls of the Memory Care Center, visiting with the other residents, as if blessing them with her sunny presence. She developed an amazing lightness and conduced herself with a remarkable sense of confidence. She knew how sweet and special she was, and was more than happy to share herself with others. She brought many a smile and warm heart to the staff who cared for her. I think about some of the other patients, who struggled with paranoia and confusion, and am so grateful that Mom’s journey at least didn’t go that route.

At one point, when Mom was still at home with Dad, I felt that she needed to be wearing an ID bracelet. I had heard of dementia patients wandering and getting lost, so I ordered one through Walgreens, and had it sent to Mom and Dad’s address. My Dad was still struggling with accepting the fact of Mom’s illness, and I don’t think we talked much about the bracelet, but I do know that he put it on her wrist and she wore it for the rest of her life.

After her death, I asked if I could have the bracelet. My Dad was glad to be rid of it, I think, and gave it to me with relief. Back at home, in Santa Fe, I went to a local nursery and bought the cutest, cheeriest little rose plant I had ever seen – a “Happy Chappy.” I planted the bush with Mom’s bracelet around the center cane. I also scattered a few of her ashes there. A few months later, when I happened to mention it to one of my sisters, she exclaimed that she also has a Happy Chappy and that it’s one of her favorite plants. Every year, when my  Happy Chappy blooms, I think of Mom and her bright disposition (and my sister, and hers). I dig through the mulch and dead leaves and find the bracelet, still there, and remember my sweet Mom.

Happy Chappy is in full bloom right now. You can see one of the flowers above.

 

A Natural Response

I’ve come to see grief – and all the messy and painful feelings that come with it – as such a natural response to loss. Most losses are unasked-for and unwanted. The initial reaction is usually “No! Turn back the clock – make it go away!” Yet there’s no denying that loss is going to happen. It’s an inevitable and unavoidable part of life. Actually, the very fact that I care deeply about things (or people, or situations, or dreams) sets me up for the possibility of loss. There is a direct relationship between how much I love (or care) and how much I stand to lose. What courage it takes to love, then!

I used to think that in a perfect world, you could love and never lose, but it doesn’t happen that way, and I’m not sure it would be more perfect if it did. You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Well, it turns out it’s true. Yes, my gut reaction to loss is going to involve throwing my hands up and trying desperately to stop it with that huge No! – thinking “I can’t handle it!” But the great thing is, I can. I can handle it. And the handling of it connects me to my humanity, my willingness to have loved.

What I can’t do is to be the same afterwards. When I lose someone or something I have really cared about, it changes me – plain and simple. That’s one of the beauties of our ever-changing and evolving lives. The great thing is that I get to make choices as I respond to my loss, as I go through my grief. To the degree that I choose to go through it (not avoiding it by trying to find a way around, over, or under) I can be changed for the better. My life can open up; my capacity to feel and care – even in the face of more loss – can grow, as I experience the value of saying yes to it.

Don’t get me wrong – knowing and even accepting that I have to go through loss doesn’t necessarily make it a whole lot easier. But it can help me stay on track. Most of us don’t say yes to loss or grief in the beginning, and I don’t advocate trying to do this. A natural part of grief is denial; paradoxically, accepting the very fact that I may go in and out of denial is accepting, is going through. This grief is often messy and almost always non-linear. I’m likely to kick and scream at some point, or maybe many points. And still, the very notion of going through can be the boat that keeps me afloat through all kinds of waves and weather.

There’s a line that I love in a lyric by singer-songwriter Kirtana, in Deathbed Song: “…I know that love is worth the wounding…” (http://www.kirtana.com/content/deathbed-song)

In my experience, it is. Loving is worth the wounding. And we can go through.

Blessings through the waves and weather.

A blessing for the hard times

In this time of loss and bewilderment, don’t ask your heart to make sense. Don’t require yourself to behave in recognizable ways. All bets are off when the foundation of your life and your love has gone missing. Let your heart be where it is. Cry and rant, in places and ways that feel right. Curse and moan in the comfort of your own privacy. Give yourself the space you need, and wait for your grief to speak itself. If there is someone who can witness and hold you, ask them for that. If not, give it to yourself. It’s ok to feel crazy; it’s ok to not know how to go on. Now, more than ever, give yourself permission to do what feels authentic. One day, one breath at a time, may be all you can sign up for right now. Sign up for it. And breathe, and cry, and listen to your own heart. You will get through this, and you will recognize yourself on the other side. Your heart may be bigger, you may bear battle scars, but you will always be you. This life-shattering is going to change you; let it.

Blessings along the way through.

Continue reading

Grief After Sudden Death

Greetings on the journey through.

With news of Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s sudden death, and the abrupt and unexpected death of a local celebrity in Santa Fe – a man in his early 50s – I thought I’d offer a bit of information about this specific kind of loss. If you or anyone you care about has experienced a sudden loss, I hope there is something helpful here. It’s written with sudden death in mind, but much of it also applies to other sudden loss, such as being fired or laid off from your job, or having an important relationship terminate suddenly, without an opportunity to discuss or confer.

Most of the items below address the difficult and painful elements of loss. Rightly so. On the more positive side, keep in mind that, as with most losses, grieving a sudden loss can offer unexpected gifts, opening the way to transforming the tragedy of the loss into a life-altering experience that can deepen and enrich the life of the bereaved.

Coping With Grief after a Sudden Death

While you can never feel completely prepared for the death of a loved one, a sudden death can leave you feeling particularly vulnerable. Here are some of the issues and specific feelings that people grieving a sudden death most commonly confront.

  • Shock. The most overwhelming and common reaction to a sudden death is shock and uncertainty. This results in feeling disconnected from your feelings or from other people; it can seem as if you are living in a dream.
  • Disbelief. This can be accompanied by feelings of numbness or a belief that the person is still present. Because of the sudden nature of the death, you may experience a delayed grief reaction resulting from the difficulty of being able to initially comprehend the events or meaning of the death.
  • When there has been a death without any physical evidence, as in a plane crash, you may be left with lingering hope and expectation that there has been a mistake.
  • On top of the usual grief feelings, sudden death also deprives you of the opportunity to prepare for the death. You don’t get a chance to gradually understand, cope or adjust to the possibility of the death or say goodbye in a personally satisfying way.
  • It is common to be distressed by feelings of unfinished business and missed opportunities, and regrets for things not done or said to the person who has died.
  • Survivors may encounter tremendous feelings of guilt, believing and wishing there was something they could have done to prevent the death.
  • It is common for survivors to blame themselves or to search for answers and meaning by seeking the cause of death in something or someone.
  • Strong feelings of helplessness may be manifested in displays of anger, agitation or immobilization.
  • There may be medical and/or legal actions that occur surrounding a sudden death, depending on where and how the death took place. Family members may be involved in things such as identification of the person and issues of accountability including criminal proceedings.

In some instances of sudden death, the bereaved can benefit from seeking out agencies and services related to the type of death. For example, State and County Victim-Witness Assistance Programs can offer help understanding your rights under the law, financial help with funeral expenses, coverage of loss of income, counseling resources and reimbursement for physical and mental health care.

With respect to your emotional needs immediately following a sudden death, you may need help that is similar to crisis intervention in order to get through the shock and disbelief of the event. Coming to terms with, and understanding the reality of the death can be a major focus in the beginning stages. You may also benefit from seeking spiritual guidance or counseling, to help you manage and explore the existential elements that may arise.

Coping tips

  • Consider sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who have experienced a similar loss.
  • Pay close attention to, and get help for, any changes in physical and emotional health, as they could be related to the loss.
  • Talk to professionals, family and friends to help gain perspective about the death and decrease feelings of guilt.
  • Become educated about the cause of death.
  • Accept rather than deny your feelings, even difficult ones such as anger.
  • Be active in making choices about engaging in activities and rituals.

Remember that you are going through a natural response to an unprecedented life event. See if you can find times to open and surrender to the experience, becoming curious and allowing it to change you. You may want to seek help from someone you trust, who sees grief as a journey and not a problem.

Note: Some of the above was adapted from R. F. Goodman PhD ATR-BC ©2000Lifescape

Blessings on your journey.

 

Rocks and Roses – My Memoir

Greetings. I’d like to let you know about my book, Rocks and Roses. It’s a personal memoir about a loss in my own life – actually, it’s about the series of events that brought me into the field of grief work and grief counseling. As the back cover describes, Rocks and Roses is:

“An intimate memoir, recounting a life-altering inner journey. The author’s courageous and unwavering commitment to “showing up, saying yes, and telling the truth” has produced a touching and powerful work that is likely to surprise and move the reader. Catapulting from the heights of love into the searing shock of sudden and unexpected loss, the author navigates the dizzying, shattering roller-coaster of grief, embracing the unknown maze of surrender, and opening to the gift of new life and spiritual transformation. From transformation she moves onward, discovering new ground, continuing growth and a new-found appreciation of the unfolding mystery and challenges of life.”

If you decide to read the book, be prepared for a very personal story. One reader generously offered a review that I’ll share with you here.

I have read quite a few books on grief and loss, but never one quite like Rocks and Roses. I have great respect for Joan Didion, especially her books about the deaths of her husband and daughter. In one respect these Didion works are unvarnished, but in another they carry the mark of being written; you can see the mark and craft of the writer. …your book has a feeling of a story just set down as it happened. …moment to moment …just telling what it was like to be there. This gives it authenticity.

…I felt drawn in compulsively. …I got a vicarious thrill from reading your story. Oh, that’s what it might be like, I would say to myself. You have quite a different way of writing about intimacy. …doesn’t seem staged. You provide no salacious details; feelings overshadow the physical details.

…another aspect that makes (your book) singular: …a group’s sharing in the public, unexpected death of one of its members, as extraordinary, uplifting, and positive. Your account of repeatedly being lifted by the support of others who were there …makes me wonder how I would feel in the same circumstances. …I am struck by your encounters with people who were not (present), but heard about (the event) and were moved by it. I suspect that this deepened your grieving process, almost as if you were a high priestess charged with tending a sacred relic. The reader gets a chance to glimpse an open account of your grieving practices – even some that are highly extraordinary.        –K.T. (Bellevue, Washington) December 4, 2015

Rocks and Roses is available in paperback and Kindle.  To order a paperback copy ($12), go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BPH8G4E

To get it on Kindle ($8), go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%253Dstripbooks&field-keywords=ishwari+sollohub

There are photos that go with the book, but they aren’t in the book itself. To view the photos, go to the Rocks and Roses page of my website at www.ishwari.org/ishwaris_book_rocks_and_roses

I welcome comments and feedback.

Blessings

Losing a Beloved Pet

Greetings in the new year of 2016. I hope everyone’s holidays were warm and meaningful, and happy. Even if, even though, especially if, you have suffered a loss and are grieving.

If you have recently lost a pet, I want to send you some very special compassionate caring. Losing a pet can catapult us into some of the deepest grief, and there are a few unique reasons why.

First, the relationship with my animal is sometimes simpler – less complicated – than my relationships with humans. Pet-love can be one of the few places where I give and receive what feels like “unconditional” love. My critter doesn’t argue with me, doesn’t resent me when I fall short of being perfect, doesn’t have any axes to grind with me, doesn’t even have emotional expectations of me. My pet accepts my care, reflects my own love back to me, and offers me their simple loyalty and dependence. Plain and simple. They don’t worry about what I think about them, and therefore their actions are totally sincere and non-manipulative. In their eyes, I am perfect (well, almost). Where else can I get that? Losing a pet can feel like losing the purest form of love.

Second, in many cases, a pet owner faces the excruciating moment of having to decide about euthanizing – putting their friend “to sleep.” This power over life and death can be daunting to say the least, bringing with it doubt, guilt, overwhelm, and helplessness, in addition to grief and loss.

If euthanasia is not involved, it can still be difficult treating an illness or injury, since our pet can’t talk to us, and we can face painful challenges around financial and other choices we have to make. And sudden loss brings its own hardship.

On top of all this, not everyone gets it. It’s easy to feel alone when people say insensitive things. In most cases, people are just trying to be helpful: “You did the right thing – at least they aren’t suffering anymore.” It’s hard for them to see me in pain and they awkwardly try to offer relief. Often they miss the mark. When this happens, not only do I miss my pet, I also feel acutely alone. Unfortunately, there can also be people who REALLY don’t get it, who will say hurtful and even cruel things like “It’s only an animal,” or “You can get another one,” or even “You should just get over it already.” In the field of grief and loss this is called disenfranchisement: situations where one’s feelings are invalidated or made wrong. Being treated this way can cause feelings of anger, isolation, and self-doubt.

Here are a few things that can help with pet loss:

  • Take the time you need to be with your feelings.
  • Take time off work.
  • Don’t listen to anyone who intimates that this bereavement “doesn’t count.”
  • Be as authentic as you can. Don’t pretend like everything’s ok, if it isn’t. Let the people who will understand know that your animal has died and that you are grieving.
  • However, be discerning about who you talk to about your grief. Some people will get it; some won’t. Don’t expect understanding from everyone.
  • Create some ritual or acknowledgment of your pet’s passing: place their collar on an altar; create a gravesite or special outdoor place; invite a few close friends, who knew your pet, for a special meal, or walk, or other activity, in remembrance of your pet; make a donation to an animal shelter in honor of your animal.
  • If you have other pets, watch them for signs of grieving. They might be feeling a sense of loss or confusion, too. Whether you see this or not, you can allow yourself to take comfort in the warm touch of your other animals: hugging, holding, petting and even crying.
  • Find a pet loss support group. Often, just a few meetings can be really helpful. Veterinarians, animal shelters and emergency hospitals may know of current groups in your area.
  • Consider grief counseling if you are having a particularly hard time, or if your grief is causing you concern. Grief has a way of accumulating, and it’s not unusual for the grief from past losses to resurface with the loss of a pet.
  • Take your time getting another pet. There are no “rules” here, but it can be good to allow yourself some time before bringing another animal into your life.

Blessings on you as you go through this time. As with all loss, if you are able to open to and say yes to the grieving process, you may find unexpected (bitter)sweetness and learning, even in the midst of the difficult challenge of losing your dear friend.

Ruby

Katness

A Link to a Great Article on Holidays and Grief

This is a really good article recently sent to me by a close family member. There is so much helpful material out there! I hope you find  the article useful.

Many thanks to Shelly Leer, the author. And to my sister, for sending the article to me.

Stay warm, everyone (It’s cold here in New Mexico)!

Ten Ways to Work Through Grief Triggers During the Holidays – link to article

Ready or Not… Here Come the Holidays

They’re coming fast, and if you are grieving, you’re probably feeling different. Maybe you feel scared, or edgy, or like hiding in a dark hole, or like shouting at everyone who has the audacity to be celebrating, or … (fill in the blank). There’s no cookie-cutter standard, but lots of people feel out of sorts during this time. You might wish you could just make it all go away – hide until it’s over – but that’s almost impossible because the signs of celebration are everywhere. You might experience an aching dissonance: how can all this “joyful noise” go on, when your beloved is not here? It could feel like the celebrations are cruel and insensitive, next to your own sorrow, loss, yearning, and maybe even despair. On the other hand, you may feel unexpected joy and delight, even in the face of your loss, which can bring about its own kind of confusion. I want you to know that all these feelings are normal.

I encourage you to allow this year to be different. Pay attention to exactly what is true for you, expressing your grief just as it is, letting it be exactly as big as it is, and not making it any bigger. Shoot for authenticity. This could be a unique opportunity to drop underneath some of the traditions and expectations, exploring the depths of what is truly meaningful to YOU. Use this season as a way to honor your love and loss, in your own unique ways.

There’s no point pretending it’ll be easy, but it can help, just a little, to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of the season. I’m inserting links below to a few items that might help.

Something to remember: grief during the holidays – just like any other time – is different for everyone. Something that is super-painful for you could seem like it’s a breeze for someone else. Please try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Keep in mind that how you face the holidays is part of your process. If you have responsibilities or obligations that you have to fulfill, I invite you to see if you can minimize them. Find ways to be true to your own needs and authentic experience. No one can know exactly what’s going on inside of you. Give yourself the gift of being your own guide.

So – the holidays are likely to be different this year. You are different, too. Rest assured that you will get through the holidays. Who knows, you might even find new ways to enjoy them and make them meaningful. My wish for you, this year, is unexpected and unprecedented peace and beauty, even though everything is exactly the way it is.

Please check out the links below – my hope is that you will find at least a small nugget that is helpful.

Coping with Holidays and Other Celebrations after a Loss

Grief Holiday Worksheet

Grief A Holiday Checklist