Tag Archives: divorce

Grieving Lessons

Grieving is hard work.  It’s exhausting, ugly, important work. I’ve learned a few lessons about it in five decades of life, I share them to encourage anyone experiencing their own loss, and the pain that accompanies it.

I became intimate with grief after the full-term stillbirth of my only daughter.  I learned that sorrow reaches unimaginable depths of the human soul.  I learned that it comes and goes in waves. I learned that giving in to those waves meant a debilitating keening that renders a body numb and spent. I learned that I could be a living contradiction:  whole in body, yet feeling as though my heart had been blown wide open with all the violence of a shotgun blast at close range.  I learned that the heart can physically ache and a mother’s empty arms can be painful beyond the help of any narcotic or anti-depressant.

It took two full years to work through that particular grief, but it prepared me for subsequent losses. A divorce that smashed relationships to pieces.  A brother whose time came too early and whose loss leaves the biggest of holes in family pictures.  A mother whose absence lends a permanent sense of nakedness to my life.  Sons that have grown and moved out, leaving deafening silence in their place.  Once, an election left me mourning.

The most recent loss is that of a treasured little sprite of a dog. She wasn’t even suppose to be mine, but she followed me around for a week until I gave in and hoisted her up on my lap where she loved to sit.  I’d always preferred big dogs, but this tiny creature



wedged her way into my heart and found a place to occupy that I didn’t even know existed.  At fifteen, she was cranky, blind, and in pain.  A solemn trip to the vet eased her suffering and she now sleeps under a favored tree in the back yard.

While she sleeps, my old friend grief follows me around. I recognized it immediately and where before I would be angry at having to go through it again, I realize that by now I’ve learned what’s in store for me and somehow that makes it easier.  My broken heart feels like it won’t ever be whole again but seasoned experience allows me to remind myself that this is temporary; time will see the pain subside, precious memories help to soothe and soften it. As familiar waves of sadness tumble over me, I can now see that they also consist of prior losses and like a valve, my sobs enable their release, bring healing. I now know without a doubt that those waves will become less forceful, less frequent.  I am numb, but in my intimacy with grief I realize this is normal, it will wear off. I remind myself that I have endured before, I will endure again.  Mostly, I am exhausted.  In my wisdom, I know that my energy will return, the future will bring happiness. A time will come when I will smile and mean it, and I’ll know that I am done grieving.  My friend will leave and wait patiently until the next time.

After 9/11 President Bush urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible. Normalcy is quite relevant though; once a hole is blasted through the walls of a soul by a loss, a new normal must be sought.  Grief is the road we take to get there and there is no other route available.  It does not come easily. It does not come immediately.  It occurs gradually as the pain subsides and we adjust to an altered life.

Grieving and adjusting is hard work, however. May these lessons comfort, give strength, and help you discover that you can, and will, come out just fine on the other side.  Take it from me, I know.

With love,



Resurrection Realization

With the knowledge that much of the world is celebrating a well known hero and his resurrection story today, I’m taking time to reflect upon the ways that we can apply the story to our lives, even if we don’t spend time in a church pew or singing holy hymns.

In Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s with a Thousand Faces” we learn that over the relatively short span of our existence, we humans have been really good at consistently telling the same story over and over and over again:  We are born, we face trials, we die and go through hell, we are resurrected.   Campbell says the archetypal steps of the story line give us inspiration for our own trials and tribulations:  Who doesn’t go through hell when a loved one is lost?  Who isn’t faced with guilt or shame when a divorce occurs?  How many of us come face to face with our dark selves in the caves of awareness and must wrestle our own demons there in order to escape?

Life is suffering. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.” Yet the human spirit is amazingly resilient and repeatedly has shown strength in the face of great adversity.  This is the miracle we can celebrate today – that we come out on the other side of our descent into hell.  We triumph over grief, we become better partners in our next relationship, we figure out ways to accept and then overcome our weaknesses. We resurrect ourselves, consistently and perpetually .

We echo this sentiment in our cultural story telling.  Our heroes endure isolation and hellish torture, overcome their adversaries, and are ultimately stronger than before. They provide inspiration to us as we go about our daily lives so that when we do endure suffering, we can have hope in the fact that if our heroes have made it out alive and more powerful, then so can we.

So even if we aren’t subscribed to the religion celebrating the hero story of the day, we can still reflect on our propensity as humans to muddle through whatever hell life might throw at us, and our ability to resurrect ourselves to live once more.  We can also be grateful for the strength and resiliency inherent in our spirits to do so.



“Hey Girl” A Lesson About (Self) Compassion

It’s a rough world.   Life is hard.  There are no guarantees. So, we need each other.  We need others to let us know it’s going to be okay. We need someone to sit beside us and hug us and validate our fears, our failings.  That’s why we have friends and why we take care of each other.

The song “Hey Girl”, out on Lady Gaga’s newest album puts this notion to a musical twist.  It’s a collaboration with Florence Welch and the track is musically reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets” with a hit of a bridge containing some heavenly harmonies.

But, as usual, I look for the deeper meaning and found that the song works well when you sing it to yourself…

“Hey girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other…Hey girl, we don’t need to keep on onein’ up each other…If you lose your way, Just know that I got you..” is some powerful stuff to hear yourself tell yourself.

I’ve recently been turned on to Dr. Kristin Neff’s work concerning self-compassion.  It’s about becoming a friend to yourself, instead of the critic that we all grow up with.  You know, that self-talk which typically admonishes and scolds, instead of helping and caring.  It takes work to change that gig around, to come to the rescue of your self in a moment of hurt or anger.   Most of us go right for the throat of our selves:  “If you made this choice instead, you wouldn’t be in this mess,”  “You deserve this because (fill in the blank).”  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

But – what happens when we approach our self from the side, with an arm around our soul and a voice soft with support?   “Hey girl, if you lose your way, just know that I got you.”

Magic happens.

Suddenly, we become our own best advocate.  Think about how we will pretty much drop whatever we are doing and go help a sister.   Now consider how that same energy can be channeled into self-compassion as we learn to drop everything else and go help ourselves. There’s a peace that is acquired.  More than that, there is a kind of neutrality that can empower a person.   If I know I can comfort myself for my deepest, darkest wounds, then no matter who comes at me or what stands in my way, I will muster through because I know that I ‘got myself’.   I know that I can come to my own rescue.  I know that even if I am experiencing the worst imaginable pain, I can be my own source of solace.

Yes, it is hard.  Damn this life is difficult.   But there is a way to manage, and it begins with self-compassion.  Try it out, at least once….”If you lose your way, Just know that I got you.”





Pieces…. Of a Shattered Life

Ever marvel at how we can muster the strength to put ourselves back together after our life is shattered?

Maybe it was a death.   A cherished soul mate.  Or a child met only briefly.

Maybe it was a relationship.  A divorce.  A best-friend-forever moving.  A child that walked away.

Whatever the cause, putting a shattered life back together is an immense challenge.

It is work.  Exhausting, depleting work.

There we are.  Standing in the middle of an infinite room with a thousand thousand pieces lying about us.

Shards that sparkle and rudely pierce our darkest grief.

A task.  A chore so vast that some shrivel away.

A task. So profound that only the strength of shear survival compels us to rebuild.

We do it.  Piece by piece we manage to find a way to do it.

We start, one by one of course.  And  deep down we know that what we are building is new and different.losing a

We know it will not be the same.

It is impossible.

Some of the pieces from that shattered life are now missing, we realize.

Some of them will never fit the same together.  Ever again.

Maybe.  Just maybe, some of them we choose to leave alone.

Maybe.  Just maybe, we pick up a new piece instead.

One by one, slowly and painfully the pieces are fit together until one day we become aware that we’ve built a new life.

Shiny, scary new in some places.   Worn and comfortable in others.

And here or there a hole.  A scar.  A reminder of the thousand thousand pieces that once were.

But  – a life rebuilt at last.

A testament to our tenacity.   A banner of pure commitment  to live.  An example to each other.