Monday, March 31, 2014

The Good Wife Grieves

Television doesn't always get it right when trying to show the raw emotional effects a person experiences after learning of a death but Sunday's night's episode of The Good Wife came very close.
As is true in real life and acted in The Good Wife, everything instantly changes as each character finds out that attorney Will Gardner (Josh Charles) has been shot in a courtroom shootout and killed by his own client: the look on a person's face, the tone of their voice, the way they carry themselves.  Something gets turned off.  There is a dazed and dull feeling after being jolted with the sad news about Will.
The changes are especially dramatic for Alicia Florrek, who is sensitively played by the wonderful actress Julianna Margulies.  When Alicia is told at a high profile public appearance that there is a telephone call she must take, she is hesitant to take the phone.  As the shocking news of Will's death is tearfully delivered to her, Alicia says the sentence that I have heard so many people say and it's a sentence I have found myself saying when receiving the news of a person's death: "But I just saw him yesterday."
Or I just saw them an hour ago.  Or I just spoke with them.  Or I just had lunch with them.
It's as if the act of just seeing, speaking or eating with a person is a kind of shield that protects them from death.  I know that's not the case.  It's illogical.  But I think it's human nature to blurt out that they couldn't possibly be dead because you just had contact with them.  It's just not possible you say to yourself as you try to wrap your brain around the unthinkable news.

What does active grieving look like?  After every person on The Good Wife receives the tragic news about Will, you then see they are focused on holding on to anything relating Will: a memory, a conversation, any information about what he said in his last minutes alive.  No one wants the connection to be broken, no one wants to deal with the idea that they will never see Will again.  Alicia goes to the courtroom to talk to the judge and to see the crime scene.  She needs to know what happened to Will in the most graphic way possible.
But this is the thing about death.  Even though your mind knows that the person is dead, you continue to imagine seeing that person appear before you wherever you may go and this is also what happens to Alicia in The Good Wife.  She leaves the courtroom and goes to the hospital where Will was brought after he was shot and as she stands at the nurse's station she sees Will smiling, making a joke and talking to her.  These kind of imaginary sitings really happen in real life too. 
She flashes back to different conversations that she and Will had; conversations that reflect their complicated relationship of being lovers and ex-colleagues of the same law firm.  Alicia recalls Will's anger when he found out that she was starting her own law firm and he then accuses her of stealing his clients.
If only she could have one more conversation with him then they could to straighten everything out.  Everyone always wants to have one more chance to talk to the beloved friend, spouse, child or friend and Alicia also longs to hear Will's voice.  She checks her phone and then discovers a voice mail from Will left on her phone that was recorded before the shots were fired in the courtroom.

She carefully plays the voice mail over and over, listening to his voice and taking in each of his words. The voicemail is a part of him and she doesn't want to let it go because if she does then it will be true that he is dead and that is too much for her to bear.  Too painful to think about.  Too confusing.

Alicia's journey is just starting.

Family Time

It's that time of year in my family. 
Time to celebrate the birthdays of my parents who are in their 80's.  My Mom and Dad's birthdays land on the calendar exactly a week apart so in the last few years my siblings and I have started celebrating their birthdays together in the interest of harmony, world peace and all that is holy.

We know we are blessed to have our parents still with us and we definitely don't take it for granted.  Not for one minute.  But sometimes it can be tricky in making sure that each birthday receives the same amount of attention, if you know what I mean.  The healing part of this family get together is that it's great to have a happy reason to gather and just straight out enjoy ourselves which usually means retelling childhood stories, imitating each other and a lot of jokes.
One of the presents that was a huge hit was a box of Ole and Lena fortune cookies that one of my sisters had bought at a Scandinavian store.  I had to Google the names of Ole and Lena because I didn't know who they are or why they are funny but apparently they are the central characters to jokes made by Scandinavian Americans particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest of the Upper Midwest region of the US.  The humor is rather folk and really silly.
Happy Birthday Mom and Dad and we all wish you many, many more!!
Mom &Dad Celebrating Their Birthdays In Party Attire
My brother, Tom, and sister, Theresa
My sister, Sheila, and brother, Tom
My sister, Maureen, and me in a selfie


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Younger Point of View

Just to briefly, and I do mean briefly, follow up on yesterday's post about the ever changing dynamics of going online to share grief and loss experiences, a friend sent me the below link to a fantastic New York Times story addressing this very topic.
I loved this story about Millennials and hope you do too because it introduced to me some new websites I enjoyed discovering plus it highlighted the thoughts and feelings of a younger generation in the midst of trying to figure out the best way to deal with their grief their own individual way while helping others who are also trying to do the same thing.   

Here's the link to the New York Times story:

I'm glad it's the end of the week.
I'm beat!
P.S.  Yesterday I had a lot to say and the words got away from me.  So sorry lovely readers for going long on yesterday's post. 
Have a great weekend I hope you get to do something fun, relaxing or outrageous!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Internet Loss

Have our electronic devices separated us from each other so much that it's now normal to text people about a loved one's death?

Has it become routine to attend the funeral of a friend or a loved one and start snapping selfies?

Why would someone let their cellphone ring during a funeral service and then answer it and continue talking?

We are in a strange state of communications today.

The first time I saw a selfie taken at a funeral I have to say I was really shocked.
I didn't know the young girl in the picture but she tweeted a picture of herself and a couple of her friends at a funeral and it looked to me like they were more at a party than at a funeral service to pay their respects to the family of the deceased.  Her selfie felt sad to me.

Call me old fashioned but I think taking pictures at a funeral is way over the line.
But I also realize dear readers that not everyone feels the way I do.  Please share your thoughts on these situations if you would like for I'd love to hear what you have to say.

The anonymity and global reach of the internet has helped people open up to exercising a new kind of dialogue about grief and loss but that dialogue is not without its' extremes.  I must include myself in this online grieving movement because I have been blogging and writing Cry Laugh Heal for almost four years because I wanted to help others and add to the ongoing dialogue and I also visit many other sites where people freely discuss many private aspects of experiencing a loss.

I have found most internet sites to be very helpful in making me feel less alone in my feelings but I only discovered them by accident through my own research.  My support group didn't suggest any web sites and when my husband died ten years ago it would never have occurred to me to go to my computer for comfort. 

At that point, my life and the life of our young son was turned upside down and inside out and I never thought about going online to find a grief chat group or even to begin blogging about my thoughts concerning loss or developing resilience.  I'm sure at that time there were people who were blogging about grief and loss but I just didn't know about them and didn't have the energy for trying to find them.

I was totally consumed with just trying to keep it together.  I went back to working full time after taking about ten days off to arrange the funeral and burial of my husband and our son couldn't wait to bury himself in schoolwork so that he could forget about his father's death.  
Today online discussions about grief seem to everywhere with scores of websites and blogs focusing on many different kinds of losses: the death of a spouse, a child, a friend, a partner, a parent or even a pet.  I think this is a great development; a healthy and wonderful thing because for decades people never discussed the emotional effects of their abrupt losses, the shock or trauma they felt seeing their loved one die or what they did to help them get whole again after their loss.

However, our electronics can sometimes serve to disconnect us and a very sad event this week in the news brought this to mind.  As friendly and open as the internet can be to unfettered dialogue about loss, it can also be cold in its execution. 

I still find it hard to believe that Malaysian Airlines chose to text the relatives of the 153 passengers aboard Flight 370 to tell them that no one on board survived the plane's mysterious disappearance.  What happened to exercising some human contact and compassion?  The airlines should have had a room setup with grief counselors and put someone in charge of personally giving them such tragic news.

While it did not look as though anyone had survived the strange crash, no one gives up hope until there is evidence to do otherwise.  Texting the information was cruel.

Cellphones ringing in church?  This has happened a few times at my parish during Mass and it never ceases to surprise me that people act casual while the phone is ringing and they don't seem to be in a rush to turn off their phones.  Instead, people let their phones (no matter what the ringtone) continue to ring during Mass or a funeral service.  It's plain rude.  What about when people answer the phone during a funeral service and continue to make conversation?  "Hey! How are you? Yeah I'm at a funeral right now.  Um, I think I'm okay.  How about I call you later?"  Turn it off before you get into the service.  Put it on silence.  Please.  It's not that hard.

Our actions with electronic devices and our behavior on the internet only requires some thought about how our decisions will affect others.

Let's be careful out there.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Ripple Effect

Something To Think About. . . . . . .
Every little thing you do adds up,
and before you know it,
you've created your life.
And how you create your life
ripples out and effects everyone
and everything that crosses your path,
known or unknown to you.
                   ~ Kathy Freston

Monday, March 24, 2014

Old Movies

When Sundays are overcast and chilly, as yesterday was, I love to gather the blankets on the sofa and watch old movies.  At first I feel a little guilty about laying on the couch, vegging and doing nothing but then I remind myself that I'm not really doing nothing.
I work very hard during the week at my full-time job, plus I have other family responsibilities that I'm always trying to squeeze in here and there.  So when I find a day to watch a movie from beginning to end, I try to stop and enjoy it for the healing luxury that it is. 
Yesterday as I was surfing the channels I found a classic from 1966 that took me back to my younger days: Trouble With Angels starring Hayley Mills and June Harding as two troublemakers who are sent to an all girls convent school to get straightened out.  Rosalind Russell plays the Reverend Mother (the person in charge of the school and the convent) perfectly!  She never misses any of the girls tricks!
Here a short clip from Trouble With Angels:
As you can see it's worth it to watch the movie just to see the style of clothes and hair from the mid-1960's and laugh at the silly havoc that the girls spread through the school which these days will seem mild to most people.
Having gone to a Catholic elementary and high school, I find the movie to be hysterical and also I must say I identify with the girls always getting trouble because that was my experience with the restrictive but instructive structure of Catholic schools.  In hindsight, I see that I received an excellent education even if I wasn't always receptive to everything that was being taught to me and I admit there was something about being told that I had to do it the nuns' way that made me want to break their rules.
Not very smart I know, but I had a lot of fun and made a lot of great friends and have many hysterical memories of that time.
Just as Hayley Mills and June Harding find it hard to think of the nuns as women who had other lives before they donned their long black habits and veils so did I.  I look back on those days when my friends and I made it so hard for some of the nuns and I cringe.  
I think the movie glosses over what living in a convent is really like but that's okay because after all it's just a movie and it's supposed to be a comedy not a documentary.  I'm sure that in every convent there were nuns who were great friends, nuns that you felt deep respect for and nuns that drove you up the wall.

Just like the people you meet in real life right?

I hope you did something relaxing this weekend and that those good vibes follow you through this week!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Happier Friday!

Something as simple as the day of the week can make me happy.

I didn't even work five days this week because Washington, DC got so much snow on Monday that the federal government shutdown, the buses weren't running and I had the day off.
Still, today is Friday and that feels great.  The grind of this week is almost over and the weekend is within sight.

Friday evening is one of the best feelings in the world, don't you think? You've just finished working through one work week and now the whole incredible weekend is in front of you.  Have you ever noticed how happy everyone is on Friday evening when they are leaving their offices?

It's as though the principal rang the bell at school and announced "Recess!" I swear if I could bottle that Friday evening feeling I would make a ton of money. 
So embrace your fabulous Friday feeling and, better still, keep it going as long as possible.  Maybe you have plans to do something today you wouldn't do on any other day of the week!  Lighten up and spend some time playing.

Friday.  As Pharrell Williams sings in his infectious hit song, "Happy," I feel like a room without a roof. . . .

Thursday, March 20, 2014

L'Wren Scott

One of my sisters and I were talking on the phone the other day about the tragic news that fashion designer L'Wren Scott had been found dead in her New York City apartment at the age of 49. 
We talked about what the news stories were reporting -- that she had used a scarf to hang herself, that she designed such beautiful, beautiful clothes, that she was so glamorous herself and that she was the longtime girlfriend of  Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.
L'Wren Scott and Mick Jagger
More importantly, we reiterated to each other that no matter what was happening to us, we would always know that we could call each other in case of a personal trauma.  That there should never be the feeling that anything could be so utterly hopeless.  That if we found ourselves in a place that made it difficult to reach out that we could depend on each other to intervene and help. 
Of course we don't know L'Wren Scott personally and all that we know about her is what we read in the newspapers and see on television but there was something about her that came through in the pictures taken of her that gave you the feeling that she could be one of your friends and if you did meet her in person you would like her and probably go to lunch with her and have a lot of fun.
The way that her life ended just seemed so incredibly and heartbreakingly sad.  The idea of someone being alone, feeling that they were so very alone, desperate for a way to deal with their life at that point and to take their own life brought home how vulnerable we as human beings can be in the midst of our problems and especially how life can sucker punch you when you least expect it.  No suicide note was found in her apartment but reports have speculated that she was having financial problems with her business and was possibly as much as $6 million in debt.
Dark thoughts can sometimes creep into our psyche but we have to be on guard to fight them and make sure that they don't overtake our feelings and actions.  We also need to make sure we talk to others about our fears.  Suicide is particularly difficult to come to terms with and is much more complicated than the way I am writing about it today but it's hard to imagine that there wasn't someone out there who could have helped her; it goes against our instincts to think that suicide is even an option.
We may never know for sure what drove her to that isolated place that day.  We live in an highly competitive and fast-paced society that can take a toll on the sensitivities of some of us.  I choose to think that if she had confided in someone about her anxieties that they would have offered her a strong and helping hand.

Please rest in peace L'Wren.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Changed Life

Aging.  Knowing that it's happening to all of us is not very consoling.  I see the effects of the years of living on myself, especially when someone takes a picture of me.  I definitely don't like it and I wonder how I arrived at middle age so quickly.
I know that sounds so cliché but it's true.  I see those grey hairs working their way out of my scalp and for now those bad boys get dyed.  I also see lines starting to form on my face in places where I don't want them but I don't hate them so much that I would get botox injections or go under the knife.  Too scary.
As my mother says, "Every year is just a little more maintenance, and then a little more and then suddenly it takes you an hour to do what it used to take you ten minutes to do."  Okay Mom.  I am working to accept it for I know it's inevitable. 
That said, I do try to take care of myself and work hard to stay in shape and minimize the effects of the sun and other bad health decisions on my body; particularly my skin.  My personal theory about getting older is that it's all about your physical and mental energy: walking with a purpose, thinking good thoughts and approaching each day with a certain amount of zest!
I'm thinking of this subject today because a friend emailed me a recent interview NPR did with British author Penelope Lively (love her last name!) about her new book, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, a book that 81-year-old Lively says is about her "view from old age," a place I don't think about much because it once seemed to be a place so far, far away.

British author Penelope Lively
In particular in the interview, Lively talks about how it felt like to adjust to the unfortunate death of her husband, Jack, at 69-years old from cancer and her keen observations on how women and men adapt differently to going on with life after the death of a spouse.

Lively also notes that she is part of a new demographic in the Western world: for the first time, there's a large segment of the population over 80 and she notes that the effects of the additional time and attention it takes to care for such a large population of older people on the rest of society are yet to be seen.

Here, for all to read, and also listen to if you wish, is the link to Lively's NPR interview and pages from her insightful book:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Commiting To Heal

When committing yourself to begin healing, you are taking an important step.  You are in effect looking around yourself and saying that today's situation isn't working well for you and you are choosing to change.

I have found that it's a decision that can make you feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. On the one hand, you are feeling brave to decide to open yourself up to change but on the other hand, the act of opening yourself up to something new is scary and nerve wracking because it's unpredictable.
We all react differently to the loss of a loved one or a trauma in our lives.  It's okay.  You are in new territory but you aren't alone.

Isn't it funny how you can feel strong and scared in the same moment?  But you can't allow that push-pull moment to overtake you and possibly stop you.  If you think about change too much, then it might slow you down.  It's much more important to keep the momentum going; to keep moving forward.

Simplifying can be the way to go when big things in your life are about to change it up. 

Tell yourself that just for today you will not be afraid.

You will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, what makes you laugh, what brings you peaceful feelings.

As you give to the world, so will the world give back to you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

If it's March, it must be that time of year again when everything green is up for grabs and my family is never embarrassed to wear as much of it as possible.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all and I'm sure you're planning to do it up proud!

My large and boisterous family gathered yesterday before the snow hit the Washington, DC area to celebrate our Irish ancestry and all the stops were pulled out for a grand time.   
So in the tradition of my Celtic tribe, it was an afternoon of irreverent jokes and imitations, lots of food and drink and unspoken but deeply felt connections from heart to heart.

My niece, Kathleen, and her husband, Ryan

Clydes' Tower Oaks
Me and My Dad

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baby Steps

Ugh.  I feel as though I have been stuck in a lot of life's drama lately and it is distracting me.
Big drama has been happening to me on all fronts of my life and I just thought I would let you wonderful readers know the reason why I haven't been able to post on my blog as much as I would like.  Not that you are hanging on to every word I ever post but I thought it would be nice of me to give an explanation for cutting back lately.
I can't and don't think it would be fair to talk about all the nuances of the Big D that is overtaking my life but I have faith that some parts of it will be short lived.  Sometimes I think that life's problems will resolve themselves if I give it enough time to unscramble but I am finding that a hard part of healing can be the times when you have to roll up your sleeves and confront the situation yourself.

Until then, I remind myself to take baby steps, for baby steps will get me where I need to go.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not To Worry

Why is it that I think that worrying about something will affect the circumstances of the thing I'm  worrying about?
It's as though the more I worry about it, the more I think I can push the situation to go the way I want.

My siblings and I talk a lot about worrying and why we worry.  Like A LOT.  As in a couple of times a week.

It's a good thing I come from a family of six children so we can rotate our calls to each other and no one ends up being burnt out from the constant chatter of one person over and over.  What do we worry about?  Besides our children, most of whom are now young adults and tell us not to worry about them, we worry about our wonderful parents who are in their eighties.  We all live within a hour or two of where my parents live and only out of love do we wonder if they need more of our help.

To say that my parents are independent and free spirited is an understatement but that is also what makes them so charming and so resistant to our offers of help.  I'm sure your family is much the same as ours where aging and illness are issues that are now at the top of the worry list.  It's a bit of a  juggling act trying to know when to offer assistance and when to leave it alone and let it work itself out.

Lots of people say that worry is a waste and I suppose that's true but it doesn't feel that way when you are actively worrying about people you care about.

Worry Beads
Usually worry starts with my thoughts and then as I start thinking about a situation, I unfortunately let myself get ahead to something that hasn't happened yet and maybe it won't ever happen but I still think to myself "What if that happens?"  Do you do this too?  Or am I in a class by myself?

When my thought process starts going round and round, stuck on a thought, I find I have to apply the mental brakes on myself and distract myself with some other activity.  If I don't stop thinking about the "what if's", then the worrying will affect my mood; as in getting a very intense headache.

At that moment I realize the negative effects of worrying: all that thinking, all that concern, all that energy focused on a certain situation, doesn't change whether it will happen.  Not one little bit.  In the meantime, I've made myself a an awful wreck.  Not. good. at. all.

Just as the repetition of handling the beads on a string of worry beads can be calming and healing so does saying positive affirmations to yourself.  Affirmations can help guide you to inner peace.  Sometimes I say; "Worry is a waste." "Worry is a waste." and other times I repeat "Resist worry. Resist Fear."  or "I am safe."

Most of the time my affirmations go a long way to making me feel better about whatever is going on and when they don't I know I can always grab my trusty phone and know that an understanding sibling is just a call away!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dorothy Flies Over Kansas

If I live to be 92 years young, I hope I am as adventurous and free spirited as Dorothy Ellis! 
She is fearless!

Dorothy was in hospice care when she told her family that she wanted to fly over her home in Kansas in a powered parachute that she had watched many times in the open sky as she gazed from her window.

Her family and her hospice nurse put their worries about her age and her health aside and to their credit they made Dorothy's wish come true!  I love her reaction at the end of the flight!  Sadly, she died six weeks after flying in her parachute machine but think of the great time she had up there in the bright blue sky. 

Here's the inspiring video her family shot watching her fly on a beautiful sunny day in Kansas!  I first saw this video on the Facebook page of JT Morriss & Son and I'm so happy they shared it with all of us.

So today let's all follow Dorothy and go for broke:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lea Michele & Cory Monteith

Songs are touchstones; expressions of personal thoughts, emotions or memories.  An outpouring of experiences.  Songs can transport and inspire and also energize.  Songs can also help the writer and the listener process emotions of loss or grief.
Actress and singer Lea Michele had been working on her new album, Louder, many months before the tragic and sudden death of her boyfriend, actor Cory Monteith, who died from a toxic mixture of heroin and alcohol.  Michele and Monteith also connected professionally, playing high school sweethearts on Fox's award winning series, Glee.

With the recent release of Louder, Michele is giving candid interviews about Monteith and she recently recounted that Monteith had privately listened to and critiqued many of her new songs and he sent her notes about his thoughts on the album as she continued recording.
Naturally, Michelle's work on Louder stopped after Monteith's death on July 13, 2013.  While mourning the loss of Monteith, Michele searched for songs to add to the album that would reflect her feelings of spinning out of control and songs that might explain to others the depth of what it felt like to be without Monteith, how much she loved him, and how scared she was to go on without him.
She found a song titled Cannonball; a song she said she plays over and over because it helps her feel emotionally stronger and hopeful about the direction of her future.  "Grief is a scary thing," Michele says.  Yes, it is Michele, very scary and that's why it's so great that you are talking about it.  Sadly, we don't truly know how scary it is until it happens to us.  You are brave to share your feelings and thoughts, letting others know that they are not alone in their grief journeys.  I am so sorry for the pain of your loss. 
Below is the story TV Guide recently published about Michele, her new album and tragedy of Monteith's battle with his addictions.
Lea Michele
Lea Michele: "Grief Is a Scary Thing"
Mar 6, 2014 10:08 AM ET
by Liz Raftery

TV Guide
Lea Michele says writing and recording her new album Louder helped her overcome her grief after losing her boyfriend Cory Monteith last summer.

"I had this experience happen to me [and] decided to write about it," the Glee star tells the Los Angeles Times. "That's what felt organic."

Monteith, Michele's Glee co-star and boyfriend of four years, died in July from a toxic combination of heroin and alcohol.

The album's first single, "Cannonball," is about new beginnings. Michele recalls hearing the song for the first time:  I just literally keeled over because grief is a very scary thing, and there comes a point where it can really take you down," she says. "['Cannonball'] lifted me up. It was what I needed to get through my difficult situation."

Rather than avoid the topic, Michele decided to address Monteith's death head-on on the record, which was released Tuesday. "A lot of people don't know how to touch this situation. It's like walking on eggshells," Michele says. "I felt 'Cannonball' ... puts it all out there. It's like this is really hard, we're not denying that it's hard. We're gonna get through it."

Another track, "If You Say So," which Michele co-wrote with Sia Furler, is a reflection on the last conversation she had with Monteith. "It's something beautiful that came at a very difficult time," Michele says of her record. "If I've learned anything from this past year is that you have one life. ... You have to love as hard as you can love and live as hard as you can live because we just have one life. I feel like Louder really expresses that."

Friday, March 7, 2014

40 Ways To Lose The Clutter

No matter how hard I try to keep my stuff under control somehow it doesn't behave.
Day by day I try to throw out papers, mail, and other stuff that has outlived its welcome but still there is always more stuff to deal with or organize.  Not all of it is important stuff, but still it's stuff that I don't want to buy again.  Here's my fear and maybe you can identify with it: once I throw out certain things, I'll find I immediately need it.
Sweet readers, what is a person to do?  How do you deal with your stuff? Or maybe the stuff that a loved one left for you deal with?
I guess I am emotionally connected to my stuff.  I admit it.  And I know what I'm supposed to do to stay on top of my clutter game.  I'm familiar with most of the tricks for getting rid of my unruly stuff: donate it to someone who can really make use of it, give it to a friend or relative, take a picture of it, or sell it online or at a tag sale.
But I can't always get myself to do those things.  One of my great friends must be a mind reader because this week she sent me this timely post from a blog, White House Black Shutters ( about decluttering and within the story is a link that takes you to a schedule you can print out for 40 days of getting the stuff out of your house (one schedule has dates and one is blank so you can make your own schedule).
I like Ann Marie's idea of keeping track of when and how much stuff you are throwing out because then I (or we) can go back and actually confirm for ourselves that yes indeed we did get rid of a lot that was hanging around and causing trouble.  Simplifying is the name of the game; not just to make room in our homes but also to set ourselves free from the burden of having too much stuff.
I think we've all had it with winter weather and we're  ready to open the windows and let the slightly chilly yet fresh air in.  Decluttering isn't fun but I think it can be rewarding for it helps me find more space, and light and order which is always a good thing.
As Ann Marie says, you could fill 40 boxes, 40 bags (of any size) or 40 trashcans but it really doesn't matter whether you hit the target of 40 or not.  Forty days of focusing on different areas of the house and really focusing on sweeping it out will take us right into Spring, which traditionally is always a time of renewal.

Good luck and here's the link to the White House Black Shutters post on 40 ways to lose your clutter:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Giving Comfort

Yesterday was a snow day in Washington, DC with the local and federal governments shut down and people resigning themselves to once again bundle up and go out and shove and clear their cars of winter's one two punch: ice and snow.
Before I braved the outdoors, I indulgently hung out in my pajamas and worked on the computer, answering emails and checking out Twitter for Oscar gossip.  I also made use of my snow day by tackling a large stack of magazines in my home office and in hopes of ridding myself of some unnecessary clutter.
I came upon an old 2007 Town & Country magazine which featured a special section on grieving.  Ah! This must be the reason why I had saved this issue I said to myself.  I remember being surprised at the time that I bought the magazine that Town & Country was tackling such an uncomfortable subject since most of its articles are about lighter subjects such as traveling, beauty and celebrity trends.  But in this particular issue, I found an informative and insightful section on dealing with grief.
 A column about grief and loss titled "How To Comfort" by Kate Lardner popped out for me upon rereading the section.  Here are a few to consider:
-- "We live in a culture that is afraid of illness and death.  There's judgment from every direction, and it slows down the healing process.  Trust your own experience, and be with people who aren't telling you  to pull yourself together." ~ Cynthia O'Neal, cofounder of Friends in Deed, a crisis center in New York City.
-- "I was terrified of my sons' impending deaths from AIDS.  What helped the most when they were dying was to do whatever I could to open up my heart, instead of shutting off from the fear of the anticipated loss.  I talked to mothers in hospitals who were visiting sons with AIDS." ~ Brenda Freiberg, chair emeritus, AIDS Project, Los Angeles.
-- "Be with a grieving person quietly, and offer the stability of your presence, which is not the same as trying to 'make it better.'  Much more important for the bereaved is to feel the actual loss in the moment.  Human beings are amazingly resilient; we think we won't be able to survive, but we will.  Grief, the hurt, is a good sign." ~ Acharya Eric Spiegel, a Buddhist teacher in New York City.
-- "Think twice before telling anyone that they ever get over the loss of somebody close; on a feeling level you never truly get over it." ~ Sanford Pepper, M.D. San Francisco psychiatrist.

Monday, March 3, 2014

In Honor Of The Oscars

In honor of the Oscars last night, I'd like to give out a personal award.

Last night's Academy Awards speeches seemed to me to be particularly emotional, expressing the gratitude of recognition, the fulfillment of dreams and deep thanks for the years of incredible support that people received while working on their ground breaking film projects. 

It brought to mind for me the role that others play in our lives during difficult times and reminded me that support groups around the country are on the front lines of our communities, doing the nitty gritty, down and dirty and painful work of helping us put one foot in front of another as we learn to live with the unexpected challenges that life has brings us.
In my case, I'd like to give out a personal award, The Best  Support Group award to Widowed Persons Outreach (WPO) located at Sibley Hospital in Washington, DC.  The people at Sibley who run this incredible program are the unsung heros of bereavement work and I'd like to draw the curtains aside a bit to reveal that grief support groups are not strange secretive gatherings of people who wallow in their sorrow and loss.
Best Support Group Award
No indeed.  They are groups of compassionate people dealing honestly and directly with the confusion that grief brings.  I spent almost two years as a participating member of the WPO support group and then after leaving the support group I spent many years later as a volunteer trying to give back the unconditional support WPO gave to me.

I learned a tremendous amount from the other widowed members of the group and also the amazing people who ran the group while I was there.  One person I would like to give a shout out to is Julie Potter, a calm and patient woman with so much insight that she reminds me of  a wise Buddha.  WPO taught me how to slowly gather the shattered pieces of myself and figure out how to best to put them back together in a way that gave me worked for me.  The group gave me the strength to help myself and my grieving young son.   
Whether it's alcoholism, gambling, overeating, drug addiction or grief, I believe that others who are traveling the same unpredictable path as ourselves can often offer the greatest amount of inspiration.

It may seem slow and incredibly painful but I found that when you sit and share your story with others facing the same issues, there is a sense of relief that you have finally found people who understand the depth of what you are feeling and how hard it is to handle.  In searching for a way to begin healing, support groups offer a safety zone because you find you are not alone in your emotional turmoil. 
Many people are uncomfortable with the emotional pain of grief.  As a result, family and friends are sometimes unsure of what to say or how to be helpful.  Support groups are the places where we can let it all hang out, revealing the thoughts and feeling we might not want to tell others because they might not get what we are really telling them.
You deserve to talk through your feelings and get them off your chest.  It's all part of starting a healing process.  By letting your emotions come to the surface and then working through them, you acknowledge and face your changed life and find others who are also dealing with the same sorts of issues.
Each grief may be individual but you shouldn't feel that you have to handle it all by yourself.  Support groups can be a crucial first step when you find yourself unsure of how to deal with a personal crisis.