SUMMER TIME

“Summer time and the living’ is easy…” But the sun is strong and the heat is high and we are constantly reminded to hydrate and use sun protection with hats and sunscreen. Death knows no season. Grief is challenging at best, whether during summer, fall, winter or spring. There are many bereaved people out there this summer who might benefit from suggestions for SELF CARE; things one can do to support the body and mind while traveling the “journey of grief”.

S - Say NO when you don’t want to do something

E - Eat healthy foods and drink lots of water

L - Love yourself and be compassionate to yourself

F - Follow your instincts

C - Call a friend or professional to share feelings

A - Activity like exercise, swimming and walking

R - Relax your mind with prayer or meditation

E - Express your feelings with music, art or writing

More information about self care in general can be found at “selfcaring.info”

Stay cool…………….

-Harriet

JUST BE THERE

Recently a CNN headline titled, “A Boy With Autism Broke Down At An Orlando Theme Park. The Employee Saved The Day” caught my eye and upon reading the story I learned that 9 year old Ralph had his heart set on visiting the Amazing Adventures of Spider Man and was very patient waiting until the end of the family’s visit to get to it. As the family neared that venue '“Ralph bubbled over with excitement. But with the ride vehicles in sight Spider Man broke down.” His mother’s post on Facebook described her son’s meltdown as he “lay sprawled on the floor…screaming and crying so hard he could barely breathe…and his parents tried to peel him off the ground.” That’s when a Spider Man employee lay down next to Ralph. Not only did she let him cry and helped him breathe but she told him it was OK to be sad. They both stayed there on the ground until Ralph felt better. He then smiled and thanked her.

What have you done when a friend, colleague or family member shared their emotions or words of grief, stress or fear? Did you try to solve their problem, distract them or offer a platitude that all will be ok?

What can you do next time you are in that situation?

JUST BE THERE……………LISTEN - OFFER A HUG - BE PATIENT - WITNESS ……….. JUST BE THERE

And remember SAD IS NOT BAD, It’s How We Grieve After We’ve Loved and it’s how we grieve when we have lost our hope, dream or expectation.

-Harriet

HONORING THE FALLEN

Congressman Brian Mast of the 18th district of Florida sent an email in recognition of Memorial Day. I quote a passage from his message, “Putting on the uniform is something very few Americans get to experience. But for those who do, it is a life-changing experience. Serving in the military is a commitment to a greater cause, defending our freedom and keeping our country safe.

I’ve always tried to teach my kids about what this service means and about the sacrifice made by many so that they can live free. Part of that is showing them that on Memorial Day tears are not weakness. Those tears represent strength because it is emotion for each person who gave the last beat of their heart to defend our freedom.”

I have always encouraged my clients to EMBRACE their feelings when traveling the journey of grief.

And Brian Mast concludes his email with “So, today, as we gather for Memorial Day, please show emotion for those who have fallen and say thank you to all those who have served and sacrificed.”

Take a moment to reflect and honor all those who have helped to keep our country safe and free.

-Harriet



GRIEF IS IMPORTANT

We are in the midst of major religious holidays and these are commonly triggers for feeling our grief, whether recent or from the distant past. I share with you this meaningful message rather than write my own this month.

-Harriet

Grief Is Important
BY MADISYN TAYLOR

Grieving doesn't have to be a process that keeps us rooted in our thoughts of fear and sadness.

Change is something that happens each and every moment in our lives. Since nothing is constant, it may sometimes seem as if we are losing something whenever things do change. Understanding that this is part of our daily existence and that there will not only be gains but also losses in our lives can help us more readily accept and deal with whatever happens. 

Whenever we lose something or somebody we love, it is important for us to take time out for ourselves and truly feel the weight of what we are experiencing. Although it may seem that doing so will push us into a deeper state of sadness, truly giving ourselves permission to be with whatever arises actually creates space for us to begin the healing process. This is because the act of grieving is a natural process, allowing us to sort through the range of emotions that are present in our everyday existence. Even though it may sometimes seem easier to involve ourselves in activities that take our minds off of our sadness, this will only make the route to healing more difficult. Unless we listen to where we are in the moment, the emotions we experience will only grow in intensity, and our feelings will manifest themselves in more powerful and less comfortable ways. Once we consciously acknowledge that these emotions are present, however, we are more able to soothe the sorrow of the moment. In so doing, we become more open to our natural ability to heal ourselves. 

Grieving doesn't have to be a process that keeps us rooted in our thoughts of fear and sadness. For the moment we might feel despondent, but by expressing and coping with our true feelings, we face the sadness head-on. When we allow ourselves to accept and deal with our loss fully, we will then be able to continue our life's journey with a much more positive and accepting outlook. This will make it easier for us to see that our grief is ephemeral and, just like our moments of happiness, it will also come to pass.


INCONSTANCY

Jack Nicklaus has said, “If there is one thing I have learned during my years as a professional, it is that the only thing constant about golf is its inconstancy.” If you are a golfer you know how true that is. According to a dictionary definition, inconstancy is a word often associated with love. Whether you identify the word with your golf game or the changeability of a relationship, I believe you’ll agree that life itself, year by year -month by month - day by day has all the elements of unpredictability.

Just acknowledging that from time to time may help you meet life’s changes and challenges. When your life pulls to the left or slices to the right there are a few things you can control after experiencing the normal emotions of shock, fear and anxiety: ATTITUDE, BELIEFS, WORDS, ACTIONS.

Remember the quote, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade”? Well you have choices here too.

“When life gives you lemons squirt someone in the eye”

“When life gives you lemons make orange juice”

“When life gives you lemons make lemonade and find someone whose life gave them vodka and have a party”…..and do your best to find some humor as that can help balance the scale.

-Harriet

LIFE LIVED BACKWARDS ??????

Comedian George Carlin offered his reasons for living life backwards. “You should die first and get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You drink alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb. you spend the last nine months floating. Then you finish off as an orgasm.”

We know we don’t really have that choice so some plan ahead for the end of their life. While many people plan from a financial perspective how many of you have created a “Care Plan” for the final months of your life? According to a 2017 Kaiser Foundation study, 50% die in nursing homes or hospitals. More than 10% “are cruelly shuttled from one to the other in their final days” and yet 7 out of 10 Americans say they hope to die in their own home.

What have you done to prepare for your end of life? Hopefully, you have the essentials (a will, POA, Health Care Proxy) and have begun a conversation with family or a close friend as to what you want if you become terminally ill or mentally incompetent.

I encourage you to order a copy of “Five Wishes” at www.agingwithdignty.org or calling 888-594-7437 as this booklet will help you look at options and hopefully make some decisions you hadn’t even contemplated. Always remember you can change your mind and therefore change your choices in the future.

I also recommend reading Katy Butler’s article “Preparing for a Good End of Life” in the February 8 edition of the Wall Street Journal or getting her newly published book, The Art Of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life.

We plan for a baby’s birth for nine months. Why not plan for the end of our life?

-Harriet

2019 ALREADY????

I often joke that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer one gets to the end, the faster it goes.

We have little control over the speed or what happens to each of us in a given calendar year. There is a succinct Yiddish saying, “A mentsh tracht un Got lacht”, translated, “Man plans and God laughs”.

In 2019 I personally experienced complete healing after emergency wrist surgery. I’m back to all my activities and sports. Two friends had successful organ transplants, one a heart and the other a lung. Both have returned to playing golf, enjoying quality time with friends and family and looking forward to a fuller life than each had had in the last few years. Many friends have celebrated life cycle events like births, weddings and graduations. And some have suffered from illness and heart breaking news. I continue to facilitate workshops for lay and professionals related to grief and healing. For all the challenges, disappointments and successes I am grateful. For the gift of awareness and reflection I am grateful.

2019 What will be? I cannot see, for a fortune teller I am not; I am only me.

There will be challenges, I’m fully aware - There will be joys to celebrate and I hope to be there.

Whatever comes my way, it’s courage and gratitude for which I pray

And after a nights rest to experience the gift of another day.

-Harriet

LIGHT YOUR OWN FLAME

What do the holidays of Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanza have in common? If you read my December 2017 blog you know the answer and it’s not gifts or parties. It’s LIGHT. During this time of year these holidays use light from candles or electricity to “lighten” up the darkness. Recently my friend posted a quote I now share with you.

“For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

I dedicate this message in memory of President George HW Bush, who had been a bright light for our nation.

Give yourself the gift of rereading my December blogs from 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Wishing all who celebrate, a joyous and love filled holiday.

-Harriet

THANKSGIVING MESSAGE

November has seen some challenging and traumatic events…raging fires in California where many have died and more than 1000 people are unaccounted for…divisiveness in our campaigning and elections…a significant rise in hate rimes.

I want to focus on my thankfulness this Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful for food, water and the air I breathe. I’m thankful for friends and family. I’m thankful for good health. I’m thankful for the brave response of police at Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (Mr. Roger’ Neighborhood) on October 27. I’m thankful for the interfaith solidarity that’s been evident across our country. I’m thankful for the capacity of humans to love and have compassion.

Please find the quote that resonates with you and share it this Thanksgiving:

Mr. Rogers: “We want to raise our children so they can take a sense of pleasure in both their own heritage and the diversity of others.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness. I have decided to stay with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Dalai Lama: “When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.”

-Harriet

OCTOBER 15th

Did you know that October 15th was International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day? Not likely! While President Ronald Reagan, back in 1988, proclaimed the entire month of October acknowledging these deaths it wasn’t until 2006 that the House of Representatives passed a resolution designating October 15 as a day of remembrance for perinatal death. Now it is also observed in the UK, Norway, Italy, Kenya and Australia.

Coincidentally, October 15 was the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their pregnancy causing an outpouring of criticism for their “insensitivity”. It is probable that they too were unaware of this day of remembrance.

In the past parents commonly experienced “disenfranchised grief” whereby their grief was not acknowledged or supported. All too often a couple might have heard the words, “Well, you’re young, you’ll have another.”

Today there is recognition that all loss or change must be grieved in order to heal.

Today there is bereavement training for professionals who interact with the parents.

Today hospitals have set up procedures to support and counsel the parents.

Today rituals are offered to parents to help the grieving process. They range from holding the baby, taking photos, clipping a lock of hair and making footprints or handprints. Recognizing the need for parents to be with their baby Cuddle Cots can extend the time permissible.

REMEMBER it’s important to acknowledge the death of someone who has been loved.

-Harriet

GRIEVING ORCA - ROLE MODEL FOR GRIEVING

Female orcas have been known to swim with a dead baby as a mourning ritual. What was most unusual this past summer was when researchers observed one female carrying the corpse for 17 days traveling over 1000 miles. (Videos available on YouTube)

In New Zealand the indigenous Maoris who have not converted to Christianity still practice ‘tangihanga” where the dead body lies outdoors in an open coffin for three days before burial in order for mourners to grieve. Traditionally, tangihanga was held for weeks in order for friends and relatives to publicly mourn.

While rituals may differ religiously or culturally, it is commonly known that ritual helps in the grieving process. Personalized and private rituals are being created as well. It might be playing a song over and over, one which was a favorite of the dead person or one that was shared by both. A survey noted one person chose to wash “his car every week as he used to do”. When my father died I went to his favorite diner on his regular Monday night and ordered his standby dinner of meatloaf, not something I would have chosen for myself. It was a way of connecting to him and the waitresses who knew and served him for years.

Have the confidence to follow your heart and choose a private ritual in addition to what you would normally follow and always remember - WRITING A LETTER to your loved one is always beneficial no matter how long since he/she died.

-Harriet

POWER OF WRITING

We all remember Leonard Nimroy, the actor best known for his role of Spock (with the pointed ears) in Star Trek. After his death in 2015 his widow Susan shared that her life was...directionless..."I rarely got out of bed. I was part of the walking wounded. We were each other's best friend. I couldn't imagine life without him." 

After struggling with her profound grief for over a year, friends encouraged her to engage her creative juices. It all began with writing letters, "Dear Leonard". As you well know my memoir, SAD IS NOT BAD is based on letters I wrote to my husband after his death, a coping mechanism I have always encouraged my clients to try. Ultimately, Susan created a short film called "Eve" which debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

"Eve" is Susan Bay Nimroy's story.  

In less than 3 minutes you will learn much from her interview on YouTube. I encourage you to check it out.

-Harriet

CELEBRITY DEATHS

Recently we have learned of many public figures who've died from illness, accident or suicide. Some names are Kate Spade, Philip Roth and Anthony Bourdain. There are countless other actors, musicians and sports stars. The most recent notable death was Dr. Charles Krauthammer at the age of 68. Whether you agreed with his political opinions or not one must honor his gifts as a political writer and orator for he used his wisdom, intellect, wit, openness and courage to convey his position. 

His doctors informed him that he had just weeks to live after a year of treatment following cancer surgery. And on June 8, two weeks before he died, he shared publicly, "I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I'm afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me... I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life - full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave with the knowledge that I have lived the life I intended." He thanked his doctors and caregivers, his dear friends who "have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months" his colleagues, his readers and viewers. He added, "I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation's destiny."

There are many lessons to be learned from Charles Krauthammer. 

What's your take away from his life, his legacy and his lessons?

-Harriet

MOTHER'S DAY • FATHER'S DAY

Mother’s Day was recently celebrated with purchases of greeting cards, flowers, presents and candy and probably taking Mom out for a meal.  For Father’s Day (June 17 this year) the focus will be sending cards and buying presents as well, but likely having families gather around the barbecue or enjoying a picnic at a park or beach. Sounds wonderful right?

These holidays established in 1914 and 1910 respectively, are not always experienced as joyful celebrations. For some people the parent/child relationship might have been abusive or estranged and the holiday evokes painful emotions. For others who do have close, loving relationships the holiday is another opportunity to express their love in person, on FaceTime or on Facebook.

After the death of a parent the varied feelings of grief may initially be intense and will need to be processed as part of normal grief. For those with more complicated grief it is hoped the adult child will seek professional counseling to support oneself through this challenging journey. In time one’s feelings hopefully will be a combination of possible sadness, missing and happy memories of having the parent in one’s life.  As a friend recently acknowledged, Mother’s Day for her was “bittersweet”.

And then for some there is gratitude as expressed in this poem recently shared with me.

                    A Prayer For Connections To Remembering A Loved One

Thank you for presenting me with a symbol, a memory, a connection… a smell, a butterfly, a feather, a sunrise, a sunset… Please allow me to be open, aware and vulnerable to see and connect with what is presented. And if I am able to connect … How lucky am I?

– Harriet

SPRING = REBIRTH, RENEWAL and REDEMPTION

Passover and Easter share foods, symbolism and life lessons at this time of year. 

May you be freed from whatever enslaves you; physically, emotionally or spiritually.  

May you find new ways to look at what challenges you. 

May you find an inner strength to overcome your struggles.

May you enjoy the warmth and beauty of Spring.

Whether you observe Easter or Passover or not my message from 2017 is meant for you too.

 

-Harriet

WILL THIS BE THE LAST TIME?

How do I begin? Every time I read a story, watch a TV interview or the Town Hall meeting or see a video about the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School I begin to cry. I don’t even know anyone who died, was injured or lived in Parkland. Yet it affected me and countless others, triggering emotional and verbal responses. 

This tragedy parallels 9/11 in some ways: 

MURDER - CHAOS - TRAUMA - FIRST RESPONDERS - FEAR - GRIEF - PTSD - ACTION                                                                                                                                                                       

Just as men and women went off to work on that beautifully clear late summer day in New York, students and teachers left their homes on February 14 assuming they were facing a typical day at school with the added joy of it being a holiday acknowledging LOVE. 

After 9/11 people feared traveling in general, internationally, by plane, in subways, across bridges and entering tall buildings.  Now students, near and far, are experiencing fear of safety in their own schools.

And there has been action! The students who survived the traumatic day at their school are speaking out and carrying signs. Their voices are strong, their messages clear and they are gathering support from teens across the country and from prominent adults as well. 

In his February 18 article, “Is It Time, Again?”posted on LinkedIn, Stephen Gray Wallace (author, speaker, consultant) reminds us that students at Wayland High School in Massachusetts founded SADD in 1981 after two of their fellow students died as a result of impaired driving only a few days apart. That decision led to the creation of 10,000 chapters all over the country, resulting in over 60% less alcohol related teen deaths in just over 10 years.  

Will the students from Stoneman Douglas HS be able to bring about the change to end school violence? Fred Guttenberg, the bereft father of Jaime, when interviewed February 22 on “Morning Joe” shared that a week ago “my soul was shattered”, but…” because of people reaching out and stepping up my hope is restored…because of these kids my faith is restored…they are strong…they are fierce. These kids are my hope.”

May those who are grieving and have been traumatized by all past school shootings heal and have the strength and courage to effect change.  May they experience feelings of hope rather than despair. 

- Harriet

 

"TO HEAL".......

According to the dictionary, "to heal" means to become whole, sound. We are familiar with healing of the body, for example, from an illness or broken bone. Healing can also happen when we reconcile a conflict with another person. 

In addition, one can experience healing from grief. I do not believe the adage, "Time will heal all wounds" but rather, over time, it takes courage to face the reality as well as experience the feelings and emotions related to a death or traumatic event. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy shared from her experiences, "The wounds remain. In time the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." It has been similar as I heal a broken bone. 

This past weekend i experienced a 3 1/2 day "training immersion" facilitated by Michael Verde, founder of Memory Bridge. I, along with others, experienced an effective way to communicate with people with dementia.  I conversed with a woman, diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, while looking into her eyes, touching her hand and responding to her "words" with respect, attention and caring. This empathic approach will help a person with dementia feel connected, valued and loved. That too is healing as we "feed" the basic human need for love and connectedness to others. 

I love this quote by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, "Healing may not be so much about getting better as about letting go of everything that isn't you - all the expectations, all the beliefs, and becoming who you are."

Reach out to another human being today. Greet a stranger with "Hello", "Good morning","Thank you", pay a compliment or merely smile as you pass. You may be a catalyst for healing someone's heart. That's awesome!

-Harriet

 

SEE THE LIGHT

Within the last few weeks I experienced a compound fracture of my right forearm from a freak bicycle accident requiring surgery. One friend broke her kneecap having slipped on a wet floor while grocery shopping. Another young friend suffered a near fatal heart attack and is healing slowly thanks to expert medical care and many angels here on earth and in heaven. A close friend is suffering from intense back pain.  And yet another longtime friend was hospitalized with Guillian Barre syndrome. 

Simultaneously the holiday season is here and it may not seem as happy, merry and joyous for those who are ill or experiencing grief. Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza or merely appreciate the festive decorations or enjoy the culinary delights of these holidays take notice of what these holidays have in common. These holidays always occur during the darkest time of year. In fact today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of 2017.

LIGHT, whether by candle or electricity, is common to all these holidays.

May you "SEE the LIGHT" in your darkest moments. The light may be hope, gratitude, love or peace.

-Harriet

CHILDREN'S GRIEF AWARENESS DAY

Having counseled many children from ages 2 1/2 to 18 individually and in age appropriate bereavement groups (5-8)(9-12)(13-18) both in hospice and private practice, I've chosen to recognize "Children's Grief Awareness Day" to be celebrated November 16. It was begun in 2008 to honor the "forgotten mourners". It's mission is to "raise awareness of the impact of death on children and teens, and to increase the understanding of what can be done to support them".

Here's what you can do:

1- Go to Facebook "Children's Grief Awareness Day" Check it out, learn and "LIKE" the site.

2- Google "Talk to Children about Terrorism" on the "National 9/11 Museum" site

3- YouTube books and videos for children's and teen grief which can be downloaded, specifically,

WHEN SOMEONE YOU KNOW DIES, a workbook I used and highly recommend for children 5-12

                               and a favorite.....

LOVE YOU FOREVER, a book given to me by a nine year old granddaughter of a hospice patient back in 1989. I have subsequently gifted copies to my adult sons and have sung the "message" to my grandchildren.

LOVE YOU FOREVER and Leo Buscaglia's THE FALL OF FREDDIE THE LEAF help children and adults look at death realistically; as part of life.     

-Harriet