I don’t know if it is true for you, but whenever I do not want to face up to something, I get super busy. The problem with being distracted by too many to-dos is that what is truly happening to me physically, psychically and/or emotionally is that swept under the rug only to emerge later—usually in a crisis situation. I began to notice this right after our oldest boy, my step-son, passed away from injuries he accrued during a motorcycle accident. My family and I were stunned at first—immobilized. Then shortly after the memorial service I found I was filling up every minute of my day with errands, projects and impossible deadlines–anything to keep me from experiencing the full impact of what had just occurred.
Loss often does bring forth a sense of zest—a period of over-activity as a way to bring more “life” into an existence that feels like death warmed over. And this is all well and good unless it keeps one not attending to their sorrow. Luckily, I recognized what was happening early on and did what I needed to do—nothing. I purposefully went on long walks, meditated and listened to orchestral music with my eyes closed. I built an altar in Ryan’s honor filled with flowers, seashells, poems, photos and remnants of past gifts he had given me. I keened, I rocked and swayed to the music of my tears, I prayed for his soul. But mostly I had whispered conversations with him, asking that he say hello to all my previously deceased friends and family and give me the strength and inner peace to live with his loss.
Even now some nine months later I have the overwhelming sense that I have taken on too much. And when I do, I immediately stop what I am doing, have a heart to heart talk with Ryan, and wait until I am in a quiet place in my heart—where I can make sense of the pull of being overly busy to the point of distraction and unease. I sing, I dance, I go for walks—anything to bring myself to a place of stillness, groundedness, centering.
I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Soul of My Voice, is now available at Lulu.com. Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This text was written as a workbook/journal to accompany my first book, Soul of Voice published in 2016. However, Soul of My Voice is just as effective as a stand alone book, chuck full of essays, poems, quotes, photos, writing prompts and mandalas. Happy reading (and writing, and coloring, etc.)!!
I am excited to announce the recent publication of my book, Soul of Voice, which is now available in print as well as for electronic readers. Many of you have asked what it is I do in my private practice, and this book culminates my system as well as its application in a concise yet enriching manner. I plan to keep you posted when artists and other voice practitioners are utilizing my book and / or its methodology.
No mistake about it, the events of the last few weeks have been heart wrenching. The outpouring of shared grief and solidarity between people and nations has brought us even closer together as a species. Terror does that—it draws us into community rather than distances us from our neighbors. Fear and uncertainty can also divide us as we search for ways in which we can keep ourselves safe while at the same time serve our fellow man (women and children included).
The incident that most struck the heart of my being was when the French people leaving the disrupted friendly soccer game between France and Germany suddenly burst into song. France’s national anthem, The Marseillaise, has long had a history as a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call to mobilize all the citizens and an exhortation to fight against tyranny and foreign invasion. Written in 1729, this anthem has survived every war from the French Revolution through both World Wars and beyond. And as of last week, this new incarnation, signifies the resilience and determination of the French people to defy terror—to not become weakened from the attacks, but rather to gain strength of purpose and will.
As I watched the spectators leave the stadium holding hands and singing as expressively as they could, I too joined them while sitting at home viewing their resolve from the comfort of my living room. I share their grief, but I also share their energy and commitment to not let fear take away their sense of joy and safety. I pray for peace, but I also hold hands and sing out for liberte, egalite and fraternite with all those who wish to stop terror dead in its tracks.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem.)
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. Mary Oliver “Thirst” (2006) from The Uses of Sorrow
In the late spring of this last year I lost a family member. She was only 23 years old and had the entire world at her feet. She was beautiful, quiet, smart and loved by many people—friends and family alike. For the rest of my life I will miss her with all my heart.
As the tears feel as if they will never cease, I have to remember that she would not have wanted me to be unhappy on her account. But to grieve is the essential thing I must do now until I have purged as much sorrow and anger and disillusionment from my soul. Then and only then can I find a way to rebuild my relationship with this astonishing young woman.
How long do I need to grieve? My soul tells me “as long as it takes.” Usually that means until the mourning turns into honoring, which it will do over time should I make that next step in my process my eventual goal. It’s tricky. Grief has me right now by the neck, and I know I will miss this lovely girl forever. But I also know from experience that in time I will be able to look at this young lady’s life in its entirety, not just at her death alone. And when I am able to do that, then I can honor everything about her all the way up to and including the day of her passing.
Once I am in the place where my grief welcomes the joy of her spirit, then I can celebrate her life, her memory and how she positively affected our family over the few years of her life. How to celebrate? Everyone has their own way. When my mother died, I began to cook all of her favorite recipes until I had gone through them all at least twice. I love to cook; this is because the kitchen was my mother’s workshop—where her creativity came to the fore. And even now, three years later, I still feel the closeness I felt when she was alive when I am preparing meals for my family as she did for me.
Here are a few ways other grief counselors have suggested for honoring the loss of a loved one.
- Plant a garden (in your front/back yard or community)
- Release beautiful Sky Lanterns in their memory on a special day
- Make a memory Shadow Box
- Take memorial pictures at cemetery or cremation site or with urn
- Make a scrapbook / photo scrapbook of items worn/used or bought for the deceased
- Make or buy a piece of jewelry (bracelet, necklace, ring) with your loved one’s name and date
- Get a Tattoo of your loved one (name, photo, date)
- Take photos of something in nature that help you feel closer to your angel (light, butterflies, flowers, dragonflies, etc…)
- Make a charitable contribution in your loved one’s name to your favorite charity or organization
- Collect Soy Jar Candles with scents that remind you of your loved one
- Create a place in your home for your child’s special things
- Purchase and name a crater on the moon after your loved one
- Name a star after your loved one (unofficial, but still cool)
- Start a charity or non-profit to help others in your situation
- Keep a blog and write your heart. You can even make it private if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your journey with others
- Do a balloon release on their special dates, or any day
- Participate in March of Dimes walk in their name
- Speak to your hospital about starting or being involved with the bereavement support program available
- Create or order a custom piece of jewelry with their name on it, and possibly charms that remind you of them
- Plant a tree
- Donate memory boxes to your local hospital
- Donate to a local charity in their name
- Do a butterfly release
- Take a creative Photography course
- Speak their name to anyone willing to listen
- Celebrate their birthday, in a big or small way, whatever you might feel comfortable with
- Collect little things here and there that remind you of them
- Write a letter to them
- Take a creative writing course, or just start writing
- Send notes on helium balloons to them
But most importantly, allow yourself all the time you need to fully grieve so that when you are ready to fully celebrate that person’s life, you can go all the way!