A New Normal

When someone we love dearly dies, the world as it was has changed forever,  Effectively individuals and families have to re-learn and create a ‘new normal’.

The process is what we understand as grieving … To create a ‘new normal’ requires fully absorbing that the ‘old’ cannot be, experiencing whatever feelings and thoughts arise as a result and gradually becoming accustomed to a changed reality.

Grief is both a private, individual process and a social one in that it occurs within the context of family, community and the broader social world.

Initially, the rawness of grief is often responded to by others with care, sympathy and support.

This care and support for many starts to dwindle long before grieving individuals have found their feet in a world forever changed.   Grief increasingly becomes ‘invisible’ to others.

Many of the conversations I have with families focus on the difficulties experienced in communicating to others the depth of heartache and its impact on every aspect of life.

One mother once said to me that it might be easier to be a double amputee as there would be obvious physical evidence of a changed self and our changed relationship to the outside world.

Bereaved parents and bereaved siblings often look so normal on the outside.  They usually go back to routines of everyday life and appear to function quite well.

Words frequently are inadequate to express the impact of the death of a child.

Changes that emerge often take place over a more extended period of time and again can be challenging to explain to others.

The following captures so well the sometimes great distance between a private reality and its social perception…the gap between being and understood and communication as it sometimes can be between bereaved people and others.

Can you see the change in me?  It may not be so obvious to you.  I participate in family activities.  I attend family reunions.  I help plan holiday meals.  You tell me you’re glad to see that I don’t cry anymore.

But I do cry.  When everyone has gone – when it is safe – the tears fall.  I cry in privacy so my family won’t worry.  I cry until I am exhausted and can finally fall asleep.  I’m active at work.  I listen to my friends.  You tell me you admire my strength and my positive attitude.

But I’m not strong.  I feel that I have lost control, and I panic when I think about tomorrow …  next week … next month … next year.  I go about the routine of my day.  I complete tasks assigned to me.  I drink coffee and smile.  You tell me that you’re glad to see that I’m’over’ the death of my loved one.

But I am not over it.  IF I get over it, I will be the same as before my loved one died.   I will never be the same.  At times I think that I am beginning to heal, but the pain at losing someone I loved so much has left a permanent scar on my heart.   I visit my neighbours.  You tell me you’re glad to see I’m holding up so well.

But I am not holding up well.  Sometimes I want to lock the door and hide from the world.  I spend time with friends.  I appear calm and collected.  I smile when appropriate.  You tell me it’s good to see me back to my ‘old self.

But I will never be back to my ‘old’ self.

Death and grief have touched my life and like it or not I am changed forever.

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When a sibling dies

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It has been said that “death ends a life, it does not end a relationship.

This statement is perhaps especially true when a sibling dies in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.  An untimely death whose ripple effects may continue long after the farewell at the funeral or graveside.

Sibling relationships have attributes in common with all interpersonal relationships.  They also have specific unique features that reflect a special bond.

It has been suggested that siblings are likely to spend more of their lifespans with each other than with any other family member.

Siblings may use each other as significant influences, ‘benchmarks’ in the development of self- identity and understanding of the world.  Siblings play a crucial role in the development of identity.  Their relationships help define one another.

Consequently when a sibling dies, the surviving child or adolescent loses many things…a playmate, a confidante, a role model, and a friend…even someone to argue with and someone with whom they can  ‘gang up’ against parents.

Perhaps someone to grow old with, look after aging parents together.  They lose a shared history and future, a feeling of connectedness and shared activities.

The identity of siblings is frequently so intricately connected with the death of a sibling it may feel like the death of a part of themselves.  The grief of young people may at times be minimised, overlooked or misinterpreted.

The familiar pattern of their lives as for adults is forever changed.  They may feel inexpressively lonely and lost.  They may also feel regret and guilt, as adults sometimes do, wishing they had done things differently.

Life views may be challenged, e.g. that only old people die, that adults can always make things better and keep everyone safe.  It can be very unsettling for young folk and they, like adults, need time and help to relearn their new world.

How each child or adolescent responds to the death of a sibling will be influenced by a range of factors, including their age, their gender, previous experience of loss, the reactions of adults around them, individual personality, the nature of the death and the nature of the relationship they experienced with the child who has died.

It is difficult, in the early months, to feel connected to someone who is no longer physically present.  There may be for older children and adolescents, an expressed fear of ‘forgetting’.  The permanence of a ‘heart connection’ seems less than a physical presence, a person that can be touched and loved, played with and kissed.  Children and adolescents, like adults, may like to surround themselves with photos or mementos to trigger and reinforce the strength of memories.

“Eventually and gradually, there is a growing knowledge that those who have died are, always have been, and always will be a part of who we are, that no-one can take from us what we carry within.” (Dianne McKissock)

In years past, it was thought that we need to ‘leave things/people behind’, and ‘get on with our lives’.  Nothing could be further from the natural inclinations of most bereaved people, for whom ‘leaving behind’ is a most painful concept.

Current understandings about grief and the task of readjusting to a world forever changed, place more emphasis on the natural human tendency to want to stay connected in some way, to take those who have died with us into our tomorrows, albeit in a different way.

It is now more widely accepted that maintaining an ongoing connection and relationship with the person who is died is often an integral part of a healthy and successful readjustment.

For years following the death, many siblings may report that they continue to actively miss their deceased brother or sister and often experience renewed and intense grief on occasions that would be considered significant in their lives together (e.g. graduation, births, weddings, retirement, special birthdays).  Surviving siblings continually renegotiate their ‘relationship’ with their deceased sibling as they navigate successive developmental and life stages.

The whole family is heartbroken and disrupted by the death of a child.  The family, as individuals and as a unit, must restructure and readjust.  How parents model managing their grief will influence how surviving children manage.

Open communication, a sense of togetherness and parental support is crucial as is the help received from extended family and friends.

The impact of a child’s death is pervasive.  As with adults, not all children and adolescents react in the same way.

Some points to consider:

  • Children are less likely to be able to describe their emotions and/or reactions.  They show their hurt in other ways, e.g. crying, withdrawing, seeking attention, misbehaving, complaining of aches and pains, picking fights, arguing, having nightmares.
  • Age and development significantly influence a young person’s ability to understand death.  Adults with all their life experience and complete development will frequently feel overwhelmed by the enormity and finality of death.  It, therefore, can become puzzling and confusing for children.
  • A sense of normalcy is lost.  Bereaved children may feel very different from their peers:  the family may feel different.
  • At times children may feel that the child who has died was the preferred or favourite child, mainly as they observe parents become preoccupied or all consumed by their grief.
  • Sometimes the child who dies is idealised, their admirable qualities emphasised and surviving siblings may feel inadequate in comparison.
  • Often the rest of the world asks how the parents are doing, not recognising or validating the grief of surviving children.  Siblings work through their pain in bits and pieces.  Play, school and continuing normal activities are powerful tools that help children and adolescents manage by moderating their grief, allowing them a chance ‘to be normal’.
  • Children and adolescents will reprocess the death and its impact over time as they mature and develop.
  • Some siblings are not verbal in expressing their thoughts and feelings.  They may choose not to talk much about their sibling who has died.  Sometimes, protectively, they may choose not to talk to parents and may turn to others instead.
  • Life for adults, ‘sibling’ memories may be triggered by places, objects and songs.  It is important to prepare siblings for these experiences and let them know this is normal.  It may even be useful to share your own parental triggers.
  • Many children report thinking about their sibling at special family times.  It may be helpful to anticipate this beforehand and talk about these important life events and the absence everyone feels.
  • Children may be encouraged to carry their sibling’s photograph or other small link that brings a touch of comfort.
  • Many children continue to talk to their sibling quietly internally.
  • Some prefer to start journals.

There are no right or wrong, “set’ ways to foster a sense of connectedness.  Rather an atmosphere of tolerance, encouragement and open communication are most likely to enable bereaved siblings to find personal and special ways to stay connected to their brother or sisters.

It is important to note that as this is a process that changes and evolves over a lifetime as do the needs of the grieving child.

A child who dies remains an integral part of an individual’s and a family’s past and present.  The bond in future will of course be different with change and the challenge for survivors is how to be and act in a world without those we love by our side in the physical.

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Thanks to my good friend and colleague Vera Russell.

Grief……What is it?

I met recently with an old acquaintance who was bereaved.  She made the comment that she thought that she was ‘not grieving’.  When I asked what she meant by this, she replied that she had not begun to cry and was puzzled to find herself more angry than sad.  This conversation reminded me that we all have different perceptions of what grief is.  Such differences can make for misunderstandings of ourselves and others.

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Grief is a response, a reaction to loss.  As such, it is a resonable, natural and necessary part of dealing with changed circumstances.  It is unique, very varied, idiosyncratic and highly personal.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Grieving styles even within families can be very different.

Grief is not solely the domain of a reaction to a death loss.  It occurs whenever one has to adjust to new demands where one perceives a loss.  So it could be in losing a pet, changing jobs, houses, losing a limb, or losing a job.  It does not matter it still has a component of grief.

Grief is influenced by a wide range of variables, for example:-

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Culture
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Individual personality
  • Previous life experience, in particular previous experience of loss
  • behaviour learned from one’s family  of origin
  • the availability, nature and quality of support and care
  • physical and emotional health
  • the nature of the relationship with the person who has died
  • the nature of the ‘event’
  • the meaning or lack of meaning that event has

Grief is a complex phenomenon, and we should rightly be wary of those who might want to make ‘one size fit all’ and offer overly simplistic notions of what happens to us when we are grieving or overly simple advice about what to do to feel better.

Furthermore, we experience grief along all domains of our being, physical, emotional, behavioural, psychological and spiritual.

Physical sensations may include butterflies in the stomach, breathlessness, tightness in the throat or chest, over-sensitivity to sound or light, muscle weakness, lethargy, dry mouth, palpitations or gastrointestinal disturbances.

Emotional responses may include sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, shock and numbness, yearning, pining, loneliness or despair.

Psychological responses may include disbelief, confusion, memory loss, preoccupation, distraction or impaired cognitive processes such as decision making.

Behavioural reactions may include sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, absent- minded behaviour, lack of concentration, disturbing dreams, social withdrawal, frequent sighing, restless activity or crying, purposeless activity.

Spiritual responses could be questioning the existence of God, or your belief system, preoccupation with the afterlife, issues related to meaning and purpose.

The above list is by no means an exhaustive one but serves to illustrate the range of experiences that grieving people may encounter.

Many of the above experiences are mainly present in the early days, weeks and months and will naturally and gradually subside as we find out feet in a world forever changed.

Questions of meaning, purpose and identity may span many years.  This is often very common following the death of a child which so profoundly violates the natural order of things and may pose many questions about how the universe works.

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In the aftermath of a significant loss, we may feel frequently overwhelmed and lost.  The world has become a different place, and we no longer feel safe and secure.  The world is no longer predictable or reliable as it once may have been.  Beliefs and worldviews about fairness, justice and the world making sense in some organised way may be seriously challenged.

In a profound sense, while the acute, intense experience of grief will change and become more manageable, grieving continues to the end of our own lives.

We may rebuild life around the pain of the loss and engage with life but we never stop missing someone we love or when a child dies.

Grieving people need to have this complexity recognised and acknowledged, to be heard and understood in an empathetic and compassionate way that gives permission and time to grieve without judgement and in a way that is right for them.

A recurring theme I have observed in talking with grieving people is that too often this understanding is missing.  It is often said to me that ‘people don’t get it’.

It is a very difficult thing to wholly enter into another’s experience and difficult to find words to describe an experience that is so profound.  Sometimes it is only other parents who ‘understand’.

After the death of a child, re-entering your previous world may feel strange as you rebuild your life and relearn the changed world.  These factors add complexity to grief.  Many families at this time need also to deal with perhaps having had prolonged periods away from home, authorities never dealt with before, everyday routines have disrupted and life seems chaotic in the extreme.

Fatigue and stress are daily companions.

All of the above factors contribute to the ‘grief cocktail’ following the death of your child.  So, when you are given advice or information about grief and what you should/should not do, or be doing trust your instincts.   Do what is right for you, when you are ready.

If it makes sense to your head, heart and gut, give it a go.  If not, leave it alone.  It is important to note that the “time-frames” allowed to those who are grieving and rebuilding their lives is often disrepectively short.

Being a bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent is not a club anyone chooses to join.

Experiencing the complexity of grief and the task of rebuilding and becoming accustomed to a life forever changed takes much effort, hard work, time and understanding.

 

 

written with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell.

 

Complicated Grief

What is Complicated Grief?
April 29, 2018 By Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT

The term “complicated grief” is greatly misunderstood by the bereaved, in large part because the word “complicated” has recently become a pop culture buzzword. Many people have said to me, “ALL grief is complicated,” which is evidence of this misunderstanding. Because all grief is NOT complicated. The majority of people move toward restoration and healing in an expected, healthy — non-complicated — manner. So what does complicated mean in this context?
Think of it this way… you’ve heard of medical procedures that have “complications” when something doesn’t go as expected; something interferes with the expected trajectory of healing. In bereavement, a person is supposed to adapt and adjust to their new reality over time. But if the person feels/functions exactly the same way three years after the loss as he/she did three weeks after the loss, there is a complication.
Complicated grief is also known as “prolonged mourning disorder” or PGD, which I think is a much better way to describe it.
It is normal and expected that we will grieve and feel deep pain when we have a loss, but it is also normal to eventually find peace again. The process of healing depends on many factors, including:
. The relationship with the deceased (spouse, child, etc)
. The type of loss (violent, traumatic, illness, expected vs. unexpected, etc)
. The innate psychological make-up of the griever
. The quality of one’s family and community support
. Whether the death is socially acceptable
. Belief systems that can undermine healing

These are very brief descriptions and broad generalizations (for the sake of brevity).
You can learn more by reading this article from Psychology Today. If you’re interested in a more in-depth academic analysis, take a look at my 2018 essay on complicated grief.
In the last 40 years there has been a wave of new academic and medical research on grief, and we’ve also learned a lot from looking at how other cultures work with grief (thanks to mass media and the internet). Based on this information, we know that although the grief experience is different for everybody, there is a more or less normative trajectory for regaining equilibrium after a loss. When a person does not follow that trajectory, there are “complications,” and that is when help — such as counseling — is needed.
Important to note… grief counseling is a very specialized field, and most therapists and counselors are not specifically trained in that area. If you are considering counseling, please make sure the provider has specific training and experience with grief and trauma.

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Terri has very kindly given me permission to reprint her post.  She can be contacted through the following address.

Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT
http://www.AfterlifeConference.com

The psychology Today article can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201309/about-complicated-bereavement-disorder-0

Please also refer to Repair and Reattachment Grief Therapy at this url:  https://www.rochellewright.com/

 

 

 

worth saying again…

This piece of writing about grief that circulates from time to time is worth repeating if only for those who have not seen it, or who have found their circumstances irrevocably changed.

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Please don’t ask me if I am over it yet.

I’ll never get over it.

Please don’t tell me she (he) is in a better place.

She’s (He’s) not here with me.

Please don’t say she (he) isn’t suffering anymore.

I haven’t come to terms with why she (he) had to suffer at all.

Please don’t tell me how you feel.

Unless you’ve lost someone in the same way.

Please don’t ask me if I feel better.

Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.

Please don’t tell me at least you had her (him) for so many years.

What year would you like your loved one to die?

Please don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can bear.

Please just say you are sorry.

Please just say you remember my loved one if you do.

Please mention my loved one’s name.

Please be patient with me when I am sad.

Please just let me be free to be my changing self.

Please just let me cry.

 

These words, I think, illustrate two very important features of bereavement.

First, that it is not something that people recover from.  Rather it is a process of becoming.  Becoming more familiar with a world that has profoundly changed and my moving to a place where the heart-ache is carried more easily and in a way that permits enjoyment of life again.

Secondly, it describes the fact that while people die and are physically absent…our relationship to them does not die.  Children who have died continue to be a part of their families in ways that continue to evolve over our lifetime.   They remain loved ones that families want to talk about, whose stories they will continue to want to share with others and with whom they will maintain a deep and abiding eternal connection.

 

Time and Grief

Most bereaved people are on the receiving end, at some time or other, of comments that suggest that ‘time will heal all wounds’ or encouragement such as, ‘you’ll be fine in a while ‘ or ‘just give it time’.

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Equally, they are frequently on the receiving end of misunderstandings about how long it may take to become familiar with a world profoundly and forever altered and not of their own choosing.

The suggestion that time heals, in my view, does an enormous disservice to the hard work and sometimes overwhelming effort that bereaved people make to adapt to their changed circumstances after the death of a loved one.   It gives time some kind of active participation in the process and makes bereaved people appear to be the passive recipients of time’s healing efforts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Time is simply something that is measured by clocks and calendars.

It is a convention to measure existence.  Our perception of time is a fluid thing.  Time can go slowly or quickly even seem to ‘stand still.’  We talk about things being timeless.  We can recall things in our past and they can feel as fresh as yesterday or a very long time ago.

However we may understand time, I would suggest it is not an entity that can ‘do’ things.  To suggest that it works on human heartache in a positive healing way is to deny the very active nature of grieving and rebuilding our lives after a death.

The old saying “time heals all wounds” is simply not true.

Parents do not ‘get over’ the death of their child.  There is no amount of time that can pass that will alter the fact that their child has died and that they must continue to live with this unchanging reality.  Time does not stop the ache in hearts nor does it erase the missing of those we love.

Notions of time do however play a part in the grieving process.

Initially for many time will stand still…the rest of the world seems to be getting on with things while the life of the bereaved seems to have stopped.    People often comment on how their sense of time seems distorted.  It can feel like yesterday or forever ago since they did a particular thing.  The death can seem incredibly fresh and yet it can be years since it occurred.

I suspect that this may be because the intensity of grief in the early weeks, with its capacity to fill every available bit of one’s being, carries with it an inability to connect to calendar time – the passage of hours, days, weeks and months seem completely irrelevant.

Once time stops standing still, so to speak, bereaved people may not think much beyond the present day and the recent past.  It is too overwhelming to think about days beyond because that would mean thinking about a future that does not include their child.

Thinking about the recent past generally involves thinking about all that led up to the death as well as focusing on memories so as not to forget.  It is exquisitely painful to think about the many years ahead.  For quite a long time it is simply not possible to think too far ahead.

However, gradually and with tiny baby steps, those who are heartbroken do start to function again.  It becomes possible again to do the shopping, cook meals, go out, take care of surviving children etc.  Time does not do this…YOU DO and frequently with an enormously huge effort.

However, time does provide a different vantage point that enables people to look back and acknowledge the ways in which they have moved from how they were in the beginning, how they may be different in terms of thinking, feeling and doing.  This awareness may boost confidence about survivability and may herald the beginning of regaining a sense of mastery and control over overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

Many of us recognise that after a while, the time in between moments of overwhelming sorrow becomes longer and the time spent feeling overwhelmed becoming shorter.

I would suggest that it is not the passage of time that does this but your own greater familiarity with your grief, your own better ability to ensure breaks from pain and your own greater ability to re-engage with life within your broader social world.  Such capacities usually occur against a background of learning to live with the experience and discovering ways to build a life around the pain of loss.

All of these abilities are actively engaged in by those bereaved, not always consciously, but nevertheless by the bereaved.

I, as a professional Social Worker, Psychotherapist and bereaved mother of an only child am privy to the painstaking struggle that families make to reconnect with life and rebuild their lives.  Time alone does not do this!!!  To think that it does is to take away acknowledgement of all the hard work and frequently painful work done by individuals and families.

As families engage in the tough task of rebuilding, they are further subjected to time constraints placed on them by the outside world.

Most of us have had experiences where others clearly underestimate the amount of time it takes to rebuild and in particular, the time that people continue to feel sad.

We allow more time for people to adapt to workplace change or moving house than we do for grieving people becoming accustomed to a profoundly changed world.

Family and friends, perhaps especially after the death of a child, are often very attentive and caring in the beginning.

For many, such support tends to diminish before the bereaved stop needing it.  Friends and families may think and some directly say it, that it’s time to move on, that you need to get over it, that you have the rest of your lives to think about, other children to pay attention to etc etc

Others may give various forms of “hurry-up” messages.  They want the bereaved person get back to normal and to do so fairly quickly.  Our broader society supports and encourages this notion of a speedy return to pre-existing normalcy as if that were possible.

Bereaved people very simply need to be allowed more TIME to adapt and regenerate.  Time is not the prime ‘doer’…..it is the context within which all grieving and mourning and rebuilding take place.

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with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell

Sadness friend or foe…?

Sadness is one aspect of grief.

The sadness and sorrow after the death of someone central to who we are, is frequently of an overwhelming nature, powerfully uncomfortable and sometimes frightening in intensity.

It is also an emotion that people want to apologise for, thinking it a sign of ‘not moving on’, of weakness and inadequacy.

At its purest, sadness is love in the face of physical absence.

Grieving may be understood as what is experienced as one becomes accustomed to a world forever changed the includes the person who died with a different connection, a non-physical one.

People may die, but our relationships with them do not.

Sadness is, in fact, a useful and necessary emotion.

Leaving aside cultural rules about this emotion, the question may be asked as to what purpose does it serve?…What good does it do?…Why would nature have chosen this emotion?

The emotion of sadness occurs when we have lost someone or something that is important to us, and there is nothing we can do about it.  Sadness turns our attention inward so that we can reflect and think.  It allows a close examination of everything…which is part of what is necessary to rebuild life around the pain of loss.

Sadness slows us down; it slows down our biological systems contributing to withdrawing of attention from the outside world to our inner world.

Moreover, when we are sad, we look sad.  Our face and body language signal to those around us that we may need help, care and compassionate understanding.

We are hard-wired to respond to each other in this way.  We are biologically constructed to respond with care and concern when we see others suffering.

While many of us have been conditioned to perceive sadness as a negative emotion, it is a necessary emotion and has its usefulness and wisdom.

We are expected to be in control of our emotions and while it is important to learn how to ‘dose” ourselves when faced with intense emotions i,e. Get a break from them; it is important not to suppress them, deny or avoid them,

We, in our culture, tend to overvalue reason, logic and the capacity to be rational.  Conversely, the language of the heart tends to be undervalued.

We search and are encouraged to seek quick remedy, relief and recovery.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, out of control.  We tend to keep our intense emotions secret and unseen and may even feel ashamed of them.

We are taught that to give too much room to intense emotions may be a sign of weakness or breakdown.

We turn away rather than toward them because of cultural conditioning and because they can also be frightening.

Grieving people sometimes fear that they will be overwhelmed by emotions like passionate sadness forever.  They may also feel as if they are going crazy because of the intensity and unpredictability of intense sadness.

Our language is full of advice such as ‘get a hold of your self’, ‘get a grip’, ‘stay in control’ amongst many others.

The fear is that overwhelming emotion may be destructive.

We are sometimes encouraged to take medication that will make us feel better.  The focus is on getting rid of strong emotions rather than learning from them.  It may be difficult to believe that having strong, intense emotions acknowledged, listened and attended to, in fact, helps them diminish.

Sadness and sorrow are neither positive nor negative in themselves …it is the way we think about them that is positive or negative.  How we think about things affects how problematic they may become.

Profound and passionate sadness is not a bad thing.  It is the most normal emotion imaginable following the death of a child.  While at the beginning that sadness may fill every inch of your being, it does not stay the same shape and colour for the rest of time.

Feeling emotional pain is not a sign of being sick…it is a sign of having loved deeply.  It is the other side of love and as noted previously plays an important role in rebuilding life around the pain of loss.  It allows an inward reflection on such questions as  ‘Who am I now?’, ‘How am I different?’, ‘What do I need?’, etc. and it acts as a signal to the world around that compassionate care is required.  This care includes the time and space to, for a while, withdraw from our normal concerns.

In spending time with intense and profound emotion, it is possible to discover or renew the capacity for gratitude, joy, faith, courage and compassion.

Healing is a journey through pain not a departure from it.

The purpose of intense emotion is not to make us miserable forever but to help us heal.

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with special thanks to my social work colleague Vera Russell

A mother’s tale of growth after the death of her son…

The below writing is a heartfelt story from a mother who has buried her child; I include her story in its entirety simply because her message is so very important.  Apart from some grammatical errors, nothing has been changed.

 

A Story from Elise and her beloved son Luke who now resides in the realm of spirit.

I wrote the following FB post a few months after two incredible experiences that shifted my grief journey into a much lighter, grateful, and peaceful place.   Last August I did a type of grief therapy called Repair & Reattachment Grief Therapy with Rochelle Wright, she wrote a book about it with Craig Hogan.   (I know, without a doubt. I was lead to her by my Luke, but that is a whole other story); it re-framed all of the terrible memories of my son’s last hours on earth.   The bad memories are completely gone and replaced with amazing new memories of me with my boy.

Then only a month later, I attended the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium (again, a ton of signs lead me there including Rochelle asking to talk about Luke and me in her presentation at the conference).   Both the therapy and the conference were the first time I had travelled anywhere since Luke passed.   I had a ton of anxiety about travelling and leaving my young son and while it had been over 2.5 years and I almost cancelled both trips right before, but I was completely pushed to go by Luke/Spirit.

It turned out to be completely life-changing for me. I think learning all we can about the afterlife and becoming truly grateful for our earth experiences can shift us into a life filled with supernatural miracles instead of just human suffering. May you find comfort if you choose to read further. I am so thankful for my sweet, beautiful boy who was my teacher then and continues to be now. ❤️

 

I have been mulling some things over the past couple months and thought I would write it out hoping it may help someone else. I have had quite an intense shift in my perspective which has made my life and my grief journey so much better. In mid-September, I attended the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 

For the first time, I was surrounded by people (a lot of them…over 500) who believe that our deceased loved ones still exist and are interacting with us with signs and messages of love.   Yes, they have shed their physical bodies, but their Spirits are alive and well on “the other side.” Spiritual signs are not new to me.   I experience so many spiritual communications between myself with my boy Luke in my daily life.

 

I kind of feel like a “weirdo” for thinking this which is quite odd to me because many people and most religions do believe in life after death but seem not to have much to say about the people who have transitioned over. It was very comforting for me to be in a place where I felt like I belonged and where the atmosphere radiated loving energy.

Most of the people at this conference had lost someone incredibly important to them which lead them to seek out learning more about the afterlife, and I met several sweet grieving mothers while there.   One conversation, in particular, did get me thinking because I was a bit surprised at what I said.   I sat down about 10 minutes early before the presentations on Saturday afternoon began.  Another young woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation. She asked me what brought me to the conference and I told her that my oldest son was in Spirit and of course her immediate reaction was sadness and response of “I am so sorry.”

I nodded and said thank you and then shocked myself by saying “Actually I am not sorry and let me explain why.” This writing may come out clumsy, so I apologize in advance but know it is all from my heart.   I will no longer say I am sorry about my beautiful boy Luke anymore and I will not let the moment of his physical death overshadow the amazing 5+ years he had on earth and the beautiful eternity he is experiencing now.

He was, and still is, my biggest blessing and I am not sorry about that at all. His life and “death” catapulted me into intense learning, growth, and transformation and I am not sorry about that. I had learned so much and am still learning and, even more important, yearn to learn which wasn’t even a concept in my life when Luke was still here physically.

The millions of beautiful moments I had with him while he was here on earth and the connection we continue to have completely trumped the moment of his physical death.

Yes, I still feel intense sadness that I do not get to talk with him and hold him and watch him grow up here on earth. I will never deny my longing to have him physically here, but my gratitude that he was mine in the first place and is mine forever makes it all worthwhile.  I have realized that I never fully comprehended what being thankful meant before.

I am so incredibly thankful for my beautiful sweet boy and all that he has taught me and continued to teach me. I am so thankful he chose me to be his Mama, and he gave me the gift of telling me that fact a week before his unexpected passing.   I am so blessed with such a special little boy with a supernatural understanding of Heaven, to the point where I know for a fact he came from Heaven and then went back again.

He was pure love and joy in human form, and his amazing soul still can shine his light down on me which gives me the energy to keep going. Yes, he left his earthly life earlier than what I would have liked, but I know God called him Home because his work here completed and that it is only because of him (in both physical presence and his spirit presence) that I am growing into the person I am now.

I may not yet know what I am here to accomplish, but I do know that it will be revealed in time and that Luke is with me every step of the way.   I still feel his incredible love and am surrounded by it and reminded of it daily. His signs of love reaffirm his existence, and I am so lucky that I know without a doubt that I will be with my boy again one day.

I used to wish for that day to come soon but I no longer do. I used to think that there was absolutely no way I could survive “x” number of years without my Luke but now know after surviving almost three years now and learning all that I have, that I can survive and WILL SURVIVE because my soul knows I still have work to do and lessons to learn.

I am letting my life unfold instead of trying to control everything as I did in the past. I know I will be lead to the places I need to go and to the people I need to meet for my continued healing and the healing of others. I am keeping myself open to whatever crosses my path and know that even when “bad” things happen, blessings can still abound.

I will always try to find the bit of good in what seems bad and to see the potential for growth in everything that occurs. Everyone has their journey and lessons to learn, and I am grateful to be able to share with you all that I have learned so far.

Sending blessings and love out to Facebook land today!

 

 

 

 

 

http://afterlifeinstitute.org/

#LovefromLuke
#ShiningLightParent
#StillRightHere

Photo by Lora Denton Photography ~ Sept. 2017

COMMENTARY: BATTLE FOR THE MIND


 

Victor Zammit is the author of the Friday Report, a weekly report that has been printed every Friday for the past 18 years.  This weeks report can be found at this link.            http://victorzammit.com/November24th2017

 

Over the last five years we have seen the closed minded skeptics getting fewer and fewer, while orthodox religions are also losing numerical support.

Collectively we are going through an expansion of the mind unseen in human history. Fewer people are accepting traditional creation stories and religious beliefs. At the same time they are refusing to accept the materialist explanation that everything in the universe came by chance. 

Fundamentalists and other traditional religious believers blame the reduction in the number of their followers on the evils of materialism. However people are saying that they are not finding traditional religious information convincing and relevant.

This is why objective, repeatable afterlife research is more important than ever. People are opening their minds, seeking a new understanding of who we are, and our place in the universe. People are looking for the TRUTH and the TRUTH about the afterlife sets us free from fear of death and despair about life.

Gratitude…

Today I have a short story for you…

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which read, “I am blind, please help.”

There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks as they hurried past.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words.

Then he put the sign back in the boy’s hand so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were.

The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”

The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.”

Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to see…


When your life seems full of troubles, it seems difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude, doesn’t it? All we see are our problems, like a blackened storm cloud casting a dark shadow over our lives.

And the times when everything just seems to be going smoothly? We often take these precious moments for granted too, don’t we? Caught up in the bliss, comfort, and familiarity of it all, we can simply forget to be thankful.

So what, then, is gratitude?

Simply put, gratitude is a habit. It’s a way of looking at the world and all the good things in it with a feeling of appreciation, regardless of whether or not your current situation is to your liking.

Gratitude is a heart-centered approach to being at peace with yourself and with all you have. When you practice this feeling of gratitude, it attracts even MORE things into your life for which to be grateful.

Go ahead, try it out right now. What or who do you have in your life to be thankful for? 🙂

 

 

 

 

Nick Ortner