Grief Loss and Bereavement

The Chaos of Grief

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In grief, we create distractions — working harder, drinking, writing, drugs, traveling, volunteering, gambling. Whether or not they serve the highest good for us, the distractions wrap us up like a warm blanket, creating a white noise around our screaming hearts.

I have several distractions shared between work, classes, my meditation and Reiki practice, writing my book, Sunday drives, volunteering and meeting up with numerous friends. For the last two years, just about every day/night has been filled with an activity. But there have been moments, when a pocket of free time finds its way to me.

And that is when I feel the “chaos.”

The physics meaning of “chaos” is “behavior so unpredictable as to appear random owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.” But the chaos of grief is that it was the result of a MASSIVE change in our lives. And the “unpredictable behavior” is a response to quelling the pain so that we do not fully lose ourselves. For myself I quell the noise by going to the casino.

When Derek was alive, we used to go to the casino only when my hand “itched” or when Derek had a dream of our number 123. And just as sure as we were of our intuition, we would head to AC to Empire and win a handsome amount. We would then treat ourselves to a celebratory dinner or brunch (if we stayed up all night) and would tuck the rest away for safe-keeping. Sometimes we would go to AC just to walk the boardwalk just enjoying the lights, music and energy of the place.

After he passed, when I hand would itch I would go to the casino and hear Derek direct me to the slots — I would play and stop just when telepathically he would say that the machines were done. While I was winning money, being at the casino felt empty  and yet I also felt anchored to a memory that had implanted memories of me and Derek deeply into myself. For me, the money did not matter as long as I was able to pretend for a moment that Derek was alive and with me. And so my “chaos” became driving to Empire Casino regardless of if my hand itched or not. Sometimes I would just sit and not play listening to the ringing of the Slot machines around me watching people win and lose. And sometimes I would play and lose big. Last night was one of those nights.  But as I drove the solitary road back over the Tappan Zee bridge, I heard my voice tell me that I was trading one pain for another.

I woke up with those words still ringing in my ears along with the song “Breathe Me” by Sia.

Just as portrayed in the video below, grief pulls all the “sides” of us out that are hurting and depressed — the child, the playful joker, the mother, the friend, or the lover. And in those moments when we feel like we’re falling we find support in outlets that do not serve our highest good. However, it is also important to embrace and celebrate those moments because in them we find our greatest strength. And we also realize that the work that we do for ourselves is not just for us but for all others who feel like falling.

So in the realization of being aware of my “crutch” I do not judge myself but lovingly know that every day is a new day to listen to our inner experience and reassure myself that whatever I have experienced in “that past moment” will not become my “NOW moment.” There will be many times when I will fall but I am now aware that each one makes me wiser and more graceful in navigating my choices. There are no mistakes in life as each event brings us into an opportunity to unconditionally love and accept ourselves and others.

 

Sia – Breathe me from PK on Vimeo.

Lyrics: “Breathe Me” – Sia

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame
Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Ouch I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah I think that I might break
I’ve lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

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Signs and Messages: Finding the Channel

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“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” |
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dawn

A few months after Derek’s passing I started keeping a journal. It was not only an outlet to pour my feelings and thoughts into but to also serve as the start of documentation of the strange incidences that were happening around me. I now know that they were not “strange” but a synchronicity that was calling for me to take notice.

During this tine I was also experiencing irregular sleep patterns in which I would wake up every morning at 3:41AM. Each time, I would wake up with a heavy feeling that something important was going on at that time or find something strange happen in the house such as lights flickering on/off or feeling a presence in the bedroom (I would later learn from Derek that this was the time that he passed away that Monday afternoon). On one particular night I woke up at 3:41 feeling a need to get out of bed and retrieve my journal. Personally, I had no need of my journal but a sort of energy/pressure was filling my head. Somehow, I knew that this entry was for me personally. With pen and paper in hand, I sat down and just started writing. Large, loopy letters scrawled across the page, sometimes with 1 sentence taking up both sides of the journal. In the dimly lit room I couldn’t see what I was writing but the words came out fast and sure. I didn’t have to see to know the last word of the letter said “Derek.” I seemed to have “woken up” fully by then and turned on the lights to look at what just took place. At the time what was in the journal did not make sense to me. I put everything away figuring it was all in my head.

Since that night  I have had many conversations with Derek but I never looked back at the journal entry of that night until the other day when I was pulling a notebook to write in for my class assignment and accidentally took out my old journal. Without having to flip through pages, I automatically opened to the entry noticing the large format letters. This time I read the letter with no issues. And as I read through the letter it felt like love was pouring all over me. It was a letter from Derek to me and while I was not ready to read it until my heart and ego had opened to allow me to read it with full clarity.

I share that first letter and will share many more experiences with you as a reminder that when our loved ones move over, they will look for any means and method to reach out and to let you know they are okay. Sometimes, they will send you signs in the form of a butterfly or dragonfly, a song or through automatic writing (as was my experience here). They may even send a person to you at the right place or time to offer a gentle or encouraging word. We often miss these signs because our grief and emotions raises the “volume in our heart” making it hard to hear.

But as Derek wrote me and I am sharing with you…always look for the signs. Once you recognize them your loved ones will be sure to use it as a means for communication and will let you know that they are ok.

“I’m  sorry we did not have a chance to do everything we said.
I feel alone sometimes because you are not here.
Your grandparents are nice and have taken care of me.
I’ve seen my grandmother, she says thank you for taking care of me. You can keep the Bible.
I’m so, so, sorry Bunny about all of this. Please do not think this is your fault. It’s not.
I know  whatever we didn’t finish there will be finished over here.
I know you miss me just as I miss you. MORE actually.
I miss your smile… your eyes…no one has ever loved me the way you have.
You saved me.
I’m sorry I scared you before, I just wanted to hug you and I still do. I will find a way.
I will also find a way to communicate with you more.
I know this hurts and you just want to be close to me.
And yes, it was me who sent the bees to you.
Thank you for the home that you made and thank you for making me a part of something.
I think you said it best, I was in a sick body and didn’t know how to make it better. But no more hurting.
I truly admire you more and I love you so much.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you all I wanted to say, hopefully through this we will have the chance to talk and you can ask ANYTHING you want.
Always keep smiling Bunny. I will always be there I promise. Thank you for loving me and for being my shining star, my angel.
Always keep looking for the signs.
Love you today, tomorrow, always and forever in this world and in yours.
Derek.

Reflections: One Day Back

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During my Sunday drive, I stopped for coffee and saw a black Subaru with the license plate — “One Day Back.” What was special about this instance is that the first time I saw the plate, it was 1 year ago to the day I saw its return. And the question in my head was the same…”What I would give to hav1 Day Backe 1 day back with Derek.”

Today, marks the 2 year anniversary that Derek has passed through the veil. I had no idea that morning I would leave for work with him walking me  to the bus stop, that it would have been the last time I would ever see my best friend again. And while I have resolved within myself the guilt that I felt for leaving him I still wonder “what would today look like if he were here?”

I imagine that I would be walking to the bus stop that morning for work with Derek and our year-old daughter – Graecyn kissing me to have a good day. During the day, he would be running his marketing company, Mark Collateral while taking our daughter out for a walk through Hook Mountain — his favorite hiking spot. Throughout the day he would take selfies and then send them to me to show me what great of a day they were having. I would come home and we would spend the rest of the day together…happy…

That is only 1 scenario of the many ways I have seen June 11th play out if he were here…

This morning I woke up looking at the empty side of the bed and his ashes that rest on the mantle…and I come to the realization that that “one day back” will reside only in my dreams. And with that thought I cry hard resigning to spend this June 11th in bed. It was in that exact moment that I received a text from my best friend, Rachael it said:

It’s hiding but the sun still rose again today, keep breathing, keep living, keep shining your light. Derek is always smiling on you. So happy to see you today. BREATHE! xoxoxo

And I got up and booked a massage…

When I think of “One Day Back” I think of all of the amazing days that I “lost” when Derek passed. But then am reminded in moments like these of all of the AMAZING days that have I have “gained” and have manifested into my life in celebration of his life.

Because of Derek, I bravely look into the deepest parts of myself and move into a path of healing, grace and acceptance of all of me. My heart is fuller, more open and allows me to demonstrate forgiveness, compassion, understanding, generosity, kindness, cheerfulness, positivity, and love. I am more aware of my divinity and of the universe and how we are always held and supported. Magic exists in this world and I see it manifested every day

Because of Derek, I am a Energy Healer and Grief Counselor helping others navigate through the deepest and darkest parts of themselves.P1000637

Because of Derek, I have discovered the treasure of deep and satisfying friendships with amazing men and women who either through their own loss and grief or challenges have inspired me to keep getting up and bravely live life. It is my deepest honor to call you my family.

My heart is still broken and the pain is sometimes unbearable but I will not jump on the “anniversary train.” For June 11th not only represents an incredible physical loss but the start of an eternal life with Derek that that inspires and keeps me helping others.

When I finally got out of bed I found a card on the floor from Derek in which he wrote “I love you with the deepest part of my soul now and through eternity…We’re on a Journey Together…”

We certainly are on a journey and have been even before I met you…thank you for always reminding me that love never dies.

 

 

What I’m Listening To: Lana Del Ray ~ “Once Upon A Dream”

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I listened to Lana Del Ray’s version of “Once Upon a Dream” last week when I went to see Maleficent. It was a magical song when I heard it as a child — this version is hauntingly beautiful.

Dreaming of those we love offers comfort not only for us for them as well.

Have you dreamed of those who have passed? Did you find it comforting? Please share your experiences.

Lana Del Ray ~ “Once Upon a Dream”  Lyrics

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
The way you did once upon a dream

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

I’ll Love You For A Thousand Years

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Over thirty years ago, a little boy from Connecticut dreamed of being friends with a brown-eyed girl with red suspenders and pig tails. In the Bronx, that little girl knew that she would be with a boy with sparkling blue eyes. And when she finally met him for the first time, she told him ‘she was going to marry him’ to which he replied ‘thank God, I thought you would have found me crazy had I said it first.’

That night I was blessed with the gift of my twin soul connection – the other half of my soul. P100018000

Through Derek I learned that no matter how many people I’ve lost in my life, I had an enormous love to share with the world.

I learned that fear was a choice as I explored the world and the deepest and best parts of myself with wonder and enthusiasm. Derek learned how unconditional love can transform the deepest part of a being (no matter how hurt or damaged) into an illuminated being of love. I also learned how to drive really, really fast. J

It has been a year, since my illuminated twin soul has left this physical world. And not a day passes that I do not wish to look upon those sparkling blue eyes. But, as he promised, Derek has never left my side and in the last year, I have been blessed and have learned more than I ever could imagine.

 I’ve learned that:

Love Never Fails.” This was on the cross that I received from an anonymous sender the day Derek passed, but it speaks to the truth that true love, unconditional love lasts beyond this physical world and radiates forever. Derek supports me every day in the mundane and magical sense and my life has been forever changed.

I’ve learned that we are divine beings having a human experience. And we can make our choices in life either based on FEAR or LOVE. I may have experienced death more than most but I always strive to operate out of love and compassion.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, I have learned that I am LOVE and am LOVED. I thank God for my family especially at NBC and my core group who hold my hand every day, make sure that I am breathing when I forget how to and know when I say that “I’m Ok” that sometimes I am Ok but most of the times I’m not just trying to be strong and that’s “OK.” I am also blessed that Derek has guided me to meet “angels” who like myself have lost their soul mates and through the journey have taught me incredible strength, love and compassion. I love you all.

I’m only mid-way in my journey and have so much more to learn and be inspired by. The pain is still ever-present and I acknowledge that it will be a part of me today, tomorrow, 5 years from now or until the day I pass into the next realm. But the one lesson that I’ll never forget is that “I have loved Derek for a thousand years; I’ll love him for a thousand more.”

Signs and Messages: Play A Song On The Radio

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I was surfing through iTunes looking at music when I came across a song that reminded me of an Afterlife Communication with Derek that I thought I would share

August 2012

I had taken off about a month from work when Derek passed. And upon return, every night I would get into the car to commute back home, the song “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston would play. It didn’t matter what station or time I started the car, 6PM, 7:30PM or on the rare occasion 4PM, as soon as I turned the ignition Whitney was starting her song.

I had heard before that our loved ones would use the radio as a method of communication. And while it had always been a favorite song of mine, in that moment, I didn’t want to listen to lyrics that made me feel that Derek had to leave to let me move forward and get something in life that I was missing. I was happy and wasn’t missing anything in life except now my twin soul and my future life and family.

After the 10th time of that song playing, I put the car in park and screamed “Enough! This is not the message I want to hear. I don’t want a song from the Top 20 playlist of songs that spirits can send to their loved ones, I want the song that Derek sends to Val to let her know it will be okay. Because I am not ok.”

The next day, I got into the car bracing myself to listen to Whitney again, but this time another song floated in the air. It wasn’t a happy song but it was a true song — a letter from his heart to mine. It would be the one of the beginnings to many radio messages I would receive from Derek. But in that moment I knew that he was okay and listening.

 

It’s Always A Good Time to Say “I Love You”

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“If one were given five minutes warning before sudden death, five minutes to say what it had all meant to us, every telephone booth would be occupied by people trying to call up other people to stammer that they loved them.” | Christopher Morley, 1890-1957.

Last weekend I headed into TJ Maxx to kill about 15 – 20 minutes as I waited for my pizza at Brooklyn Pizzeria in Edgewater, NJ.

As I walked into the store through the clothing section to the back where the home goods were located;I noticed a  “junk table” filled with items markedLove for final sale. I quickly glanced at the table not thinking of it anymore and started to walk towards the bedding section when something called me to turn around to return to the sale items. Propped up on the table was a small white sign heavily marked up and scuffed, that simply read “You Are Loved.” Behind it was another plaque with the words “Love You More” written on it.

February 2012

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon and Derek and I had just left our neighborhood restaurant,
The Art Cafe. The Art Cafe is a wonderfully bohemian Mediterranean/Mid-Eastern delight that makes (besides good food) an excellent cappuccino with intricate designs in the froth. It was becoming a tradition for us to stop in and chat over a cup of coffee or Derek’s favorite dish —
Shakshooka (two eggs baked in a flavorful tomato sauce topped with crumbled Bulgarian cheese and served with warm pita). I would make a mental game of carefully trying to drink my coffee without disturbing the frothed masterpiece — this time the barista had sculpted a delicate fern.

I had just bought Derek his birthday gift, a Samsung Galaxy, 3 weeks ahead of his actual birthday. Throughout our brunch, Derek excitedly schooled me on the all the phone’s cool features.

As we walked to the car to head out on our Sunday drive, he stopped for a moment and took my hand.   

“Thank you for my birthday gift, I love you” he said. His crystal blue eyes sparkling as a huge smile moved across his face. I replied, “Happy pre-Birthday. I love you too.”

“I love you more”

…to which I ended “I know you do…that is because you are loved.”

“I love you more….You are loved.” This was a daily exchange between us where we would let the other know how grateful we were to be in each other’s life.

For both of us the phrase “I Love You” carried a history of emotions and sometimes sadness. For myself, I always had a fear of saying “I Love You” to those dear to me. Since I lost my mother when I was a child, I was always afraid that those sacred words would become the other person’s death sentence. After losing the rest of my family and those that I loved, I couldn’t bear to lose another person in my life. And so, instead of saying “I Love You” I moved into a comfortable silence with friendships and romantic relationships. For Derek, while inwardly he yearned for a deep love, the echoes of his troubled emotional past caused deeper feelings of mistrust which resulted into a distorted wailing of love in his relationships.

When we met neither of us had truly loved selflessly — until then we loved selfishly. However we were able to commit our love into words because we no longer thought about our personal needs or our emotional pangs. “Our” became “Your” as we saw ourselves caring more about the other and helping each other to forgive the past and moved together into the future. We saw each other as a gift from God, sent to help each other to see each other’s highest potential. We were excited to be in each other’s life and expressed our love to each other every day.

I am forever thankful to the man who taught me how to love selflessly and helped me to remember that “Love is all there is.” I am thankful that I was able to provide the same lessons to him. I am no longer afraid to let those whom I love know how I feel about them. We can’t change the past and the future is not promised to us. The only thing that matters is our present which really is a gift/a present. Therefore we should show our gladness and love for those in our lives as often we can. For the warmth of those words not only helps us but those we share it with as well.

Sometimes, I catch myself in feelings of loneliness and abandonment, but it is in the synchronistic events like these that I press those moments into my mind and into my heart as they are a reminder that I am not alone even though Derek is not physically next to me.

And as I picked up the plaques and headed towards the register, I smiled at the synchronicity of the moment and the reminder of that gift.

“You are loved, Derek.”

And I could hear Derek whisper back to my heart, “That is because I love you more.”

Reflections: how you can help me…

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Morning view of the Hudson

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and in perfect timing.

I arrived home this evening with a feeling of wanting to “meditate into my blog.” As I situated myself at the keyboard and started to open up the user interface to write, I received an email alert that one of my (now) dear friends had published a posting. The posting was based on a letter that a friend of her’s had written in her online widow’s group. The letter was about how others can help us — this tribe of widows and widowers who are bond together in our loss — as we navigate through our new life…This letter couldn’t have come at a perfect time as this is a subject I’ve thought upon for a while.

As I sat there reading the letter, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was reminded of all of the moments when someone would tell me that I was going to meet someone else in life or that death was a part of life and I needed to live life to its fullest. While I understand that friends and acquaintances were trying to be helpful, I know that they were frightened, too in trying to handle my grief — it was too close for comfort. This letter from a widow’s perspective is perfect for anyone in my life who has been unsure of how to approach me or what to do. This letter is a compilation from the anonymous widow, my dear friend Sarah Treanor with my own insertions:

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. If it makes me cry, its fine. It is comforting to cry. It is excruciating to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation and mood swings. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in great waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just gently say “I’m sorry”. You can even say “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and I want you to know that.”

Just because I look or sound good, doesn’t mean I feel good. I may be a strong person however ask me how I feel, only if you really want to find out and have the time to listen.

Please do not ask me if I am going to start dating again. I know you just are trying to make things better for me in finding love again. However I just lost my life partner and my mind is on him and preserving his memories and our traditions together. I can’t see a life with anyone else yet.

Days may get better but I will never recover. This is not a cold or flu. I’m not sick. I’m grieving and that’s different. My grieving may not even fully begin until 6 months after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I’ll be over it in a year. I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the family we will never have and all the other plans we had for our future together. I became a different person because of him and am now a different person after him.

I will not always be grieving this intently, but I will never forget my loved one. And rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy or through my creativity and other times with a tear. These are okay.

I don’t have to accept his death. Yes, I understand that it’s happened, and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. I am not angry with him for passing away, I am angry that I am a part of a club that I did not ask to join.

Please don’t tell me what I “should” be doing, it makes me feel even more lost and alone. I feel bad enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right. There is no right or wrong — there’s only “is.” And right now I am trying to do the best that I can.

Please don’t tell me to get on with my life. My life is going on, and I am thankful for that life but this will take a long time, and I will never be my old self again. A new person walks in these shoes, one with a hole in their heart a galaxy-wide.

I need to know that you care about me, I need to feel your touch and hugs. I need you just to be with me and I need to be with you. I need to know that you believe in me and my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t assume that I am too busy or that I have too many other people’s support and that you’ll be bothering me. If everyone does this, then no one calls, and no one checks on me, and I feel even more alone.

Please don’t say “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. Also please do not make ‘conversation only’ offers. “Let’s get together” — and then not follow up. I am sensitive in my grieving, but I’d rather hear you say, “I’ve been thinking of you,” than make a offer if you don’t mean it. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas…

a) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on the difficult day.

b) Give me a call (or even a heartfelt message on Facebook) just to see how I’m doing. I may not always answer, but leave me a message to let me know you were thinking of me. Please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I will answer, or call back, when I am ready to share.

c) Mail me a very small, heartfelt, cheer up gift. I’ve had a few people do this and it has just made my heart glow and – some days – has been the shining jewel that turned my whole day around.

Please don’t judge me now or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember I’m grieving and I’m still in shock. I am afraid. I am angry. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes. Weddings, baby showers and other celebratory events are hard or me. Not because I begrudge anyone’s happiness for these are beautiful events that celebrate our humanity and the power of love. I am doing the best I can to be supportive. However above all I hurt and sometimes its hard to keep a happy face on. Therefore, sometimes it’s better for me to offer support in other ways.

Please keep inviting me out for coffee or for a walk. I may decline but will always appreciate being asked.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better, and then suddenly I seem to slip backwards. Grief makes me behave this way at times. Please don’t tell me you know how I feel. Words cannot begin to describe what I am going through. Sympathize with me, but don’t take away my right to my pain. I know that we all have our own life’s challenges; I’ve suffered loss and different challenges as well. I’ve lost my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and host of relatives. I will tell you now, while it really hurt to lose them I can’t begin to express the pain I feel now.

Remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss, when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand and come and be with you.

Thank you for your patience, for caring, for helping and for understanding.