Happiness & Hope Over Sadness & Despair

To celebrate the birth of their son, an Israeli couple Schmuel and Chen Salomon, invited family and friends to their home the next night, a Friday. Disguised as a Sabbath-observant Jew, a Palestine terrorist entered their home and murdered three family members; Schmuel’s father Yosef, his sister, Chaya, and his brother, Elad. Still dressed in mourning clothes, holding his son at the baby’s circumcision ceremony (brit) the father uttered these words, “Our son made the choice of life for us. He was given to us as a present the day before our lives were destroyed.” We want to “be remembered as a happy united family… not one with a torn heart”. “We have chosen life, especially in these terrible days. We are choosing HAPPINESS and HOPE over SADNESS and DESPAIR. We have chosen UNITY over DIVISIVENESS.”  

When grieving and feeling the pain of our loss, while we have no control over our emotions, we do have control over our attitude. We can always choose gratitude and hope for healing. 

– Harriet

ROOTS & WINGS

This quote, printed on a wall hanging, had been a guiding force for my husband, Jerry and me as we raised our children. It hung on the wall adjacent to our three sons’ bedrooms. Now it hangs on my “family photo gallery wall” in my Florida home. 

It’s message has taken on a new meaning for me as of late. When we let go of our children; that is whether for their first sleepover, their first time riding a two wheel bicycle without our hands tightly gripping the seat, their first trip to sleep away camp or to grandparents in another state, the first time borrowing our car, dropping them off at college or walking them down the wedding aisle, we experience grief. Grief is the response to any change in our life and with it comes all the emotional responses: sadness, fear, pride, love, anxiety and loneliness. Are you willing to face and embrace those feelings? Remember, grief is normal, universal and healthy.

Hopefully, you will have the courage to experience your grief rather than push it away. That is the same for all other changes in your life (not just for the death of a loved one). 

By acknowledging and sharing the feelings associated with your grief, as a parent you will model for your children the meaning of the title of my book, SAD IS NOT BAD - IT’S HOW WE GRIEVE AFTER WE’VE LOVED.

– Harriet

MEMORIAL DAY

As you prepare for Memorial Day this year what are you planning to do? Attend a parade? Have a picnic or barbecue? Take a boat ride? Celebrate the official start of summer with your own ritual?Fly the American flag? While these are all traditional and fun ways it is important to REMEMBER the original reason for this day of REMEMBRANCE is to remember our heroes; those who died to protect our freedom. Take  the time to REMEMBER in your own way.

According to Yair Lapid, "The problem with the dead is that they are impolite. They constantly show up to visit us, unannounced, uninvited...the dead do not need a remembrance day - they appear when they like anyway; we're the ones that need a remembrance day, so that one day a year we know how to welcome them.

– 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.

-harriet

BIRTHDAY BLOG

The cover story of the March 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin reads: "LIVE LONGER!  50 Proven Ways To Add Years To Your Life". Is that any different a message from the ads selling us some new form of exercise or equipment or vitamins and supplements? As our population ages I believe the more important message is becoming "How To Add More Life To Our Years".

I recently read excerpts from a final project composed by college students who had taken a course called "Aging and Long Term Care".

One student first quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

And in the student's own words, "Dream big and do what you love and never stop no matter what others tell you. Find a favorite activity that makes you happy. Reading, music, games with friends and loved ones always helps you to remain happy and lively no matter what age you are. Life is beautiful - enjoy every moment of it. And keep smiling because there is so much to smile about."

Another student wrote, "Your life does not become less meaningful as you age. You have the power to give your life meaning no matter how old you are. Your physical body changes, but your mind and spirit can remain as youthful as you want. You can still create, love and learn. These elements of life are possible and significant at all ages."

With gratitude for my health and loving relationships and a strong desire to keep growing I offer this log in honor of my birthday. 

-harriet

 

MESSAGE OF LOVE

There are many ways to express love. Through his movies and stand up comedy routines Robin Williams was able to share his love, talent and passion with millions of people. On this Valentine's Day I encourage you to view his most inspiring speech on YouTube. It is called "MAKE YOUR LFE SPECTACULAR".

-harriet vogel

HOLIDAY WISHES

  • MORE HAPPINESS, LESS SADNESS
  • MORE HEALTH, LESS SICKNESS
  • MORE FRIENDS, LESS FOES
  • MORE LOVE, LESS ANGER
  • MORE TRUST, LESS FEAR
  • MORE PEACE, LESS WAR
  • MORE GOOD TIMES...
  • MORE GOOD...     

Sending and receiving holiday cards is a wonderful custom. Some are store bought cards. Some are catch up letters sharing activities through the year. Some have photos; of family, of children, of pets, or of vacations. Some are signed. Some have the names imprinted.

When I opened and read this card created by my friend Nina Frankel, I just knew it had to be shared. With her permission I am sharing this message with you in my January blog as it’s so simply stated. I would like to add... 

“MORE EMPATHY, LESS JUDGMENT; MORE HOPE, LESS PESSIMISM”

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN TO CREATE A WISH…………………………………………..FOR 2017

– Harriet

 

SEASON OF PEACE AND JOY

SEASON OF PEACE AND JOY

“Tis the season” for making lists, buying presents, baking cookies, mailing cards, choosing the perfect tree, hanging the ornaments, donating to charities, shopping in the crowded malls, shopping online, entertaining, visiting, and becoming stressed, not to mention being triggered by remembering those friends and family who have died in recent or past years.

That doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? Perhaps you will take a moment to read JUST FOR TODAY

JUST FOR TODAY I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far reaching goals or try to overcome all my problems at once. JUST FOR TODAY I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is; I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot.


JUST FOR TODAY I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path. I will speak softly and not speak ill of others.

JUST FOR TODAY I’ll refrain from improving anybody except myself.


Starting your day with this reading, or meditating quietly can help you find peace and joy. 

ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE

How many things do you think you can control in your life: The weather? Your health? Other people? The economy? Election results??? Sometimes we fool ourselves in thinking we do have control. 

 

We definitely cannot control our emotions (our feelings). Oh yes, we can suppress them but they remain inside. Often normal feelings of grief, be it anger or guilt, when not processed and released may result in time with expressions of rage and/or depression. So again, I ask, what can you control?

 

We have control over our words, our actions, our beliefs and our attitude. 

 

During this month of November as people are gearing up for Thanksgiving Day, I want to focus on the attitude of GRATITUDE. What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for? When are you grateful?  How do you express your gratitude?

 

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday experiences, those transcendent moments of awe that changes forever how we experience life and the world.” 

John Milton

 

“Gratitude is one of the most medicinal emotions we can feel. It elevates our moods and fills us with joy.”

Sara Avant Stover in The Ways of the Happy Woman 

 

We have the power (control) to express our feelings of gratitude every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

 

-Harriet

 

POWER OF MEMORY

 

October 12 will be the 38th anniversary of my mother in law, Jessie’s death. While I remember her illness, her dying and her death, I choose to remember her life.

 

I remember her. I remember her sweet smile.  I remember how she loved me. I remember her love for family and friends. I remember her charitable works. I remember how well she cooked and baked especially for our annual family Thanksgiving dinner. I remember her talent with various mediums of needlecraft. 

 

And I will remember her by lighting a memorial candle. I will make a donation in her memory. And her name will be read from the pulpit of our synagogues.

 

As humans we have the gift of memory. With the anticipation of Hurricane Matthew I saw and heard clips both on TV and among friends of memories of past hurricanes especially those that affected Florida, such as Andrew in 1992 and Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne in 2004. In 2005 we had Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. No one will forget the devastation of Katrina, or Super Storm Sandy that left people homeless and helpless. Not only will people remember the pain but they hopefully will remember the miracles of lives saved and homes rebuilt.

 

So too, memories of loved ones who have died may trigger emotions on a scale from mild to intense grief. However, while we do not have control over our feelings we have control of what we want to remember.

 

What will you choose to remember?

 

-Harriet

 

SHARING SORROW

 

I just commemorated the 11th year anniversary of my husband Jerry’s death. In some ways the time elapsed seems like forever and yet the memory is as fresh as if it were yesterday.

As many of you know by having read my book, Sad Is Not Bad, my healing was helped because I shared my sorrow. I shared by talking to friends and family. I shared by writing letters to Jerry for two years after he died. From those letters I created my memoir, Sad Is Not Bad - It’s How We Grieve After We’ve Loved, sharing once again my experiences, feelings, thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams with all who would eventually read my book. I have been validated for sharing the intimacy of my love, grief and healing with not only family and friends but strangers alike. I continue to share as I recall Jerry’s name and his life. I continue to share as I talk about my book with individuals and during organized talks. As I share, I continue to heal (become whole again).

I’m proud to announce the audio book version of SAD IS NOT BAD, available on Audible for those who may not be able to read print because of diminished eyesight as well for those who simply prefer listening to books.

September 11, 2001......that was 15 years ago; seems like a lifetime ago and yet a clear, conscious memory etched into our minds...

Share a memory of that tragic day with someone.
Share the name of someone you knew who was murdered that day.
Share with someone you know whose loved one died on September 11, 2001.

I will leave you with this quote from the book, A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman...
“...but sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it, there’s a good chance that it

will drive them apart instead.”

-Harriet

 

WHAT IS LIFE?

Life is a challenge............................... meet it. 

Life is a gift........................................ accept it.

Life is an adventure............................. dare it.

Life is a sorrow........................... overcome it.

Life is a tragedy..................................... face it.

Life is a duty.................................... perform it.

Life is a game......................................... play it.

Life is mystery ................................... unfold it.

Life is a song........................................... sing it.

Life is an opportunity........................... take it.

Life is a journey............................ complete it.

Life is a promise................................... fulfill it.

Life is a struggle................................... fight it.

Life is a goal..................................... achieve it.

Life is a puzzle..................................... solve it.

 

– Harriet

 

 

IN MEMORY OF ELI WIESEL

Never Shall I Forget

 

Never shall I forget that night,

the first night in the camp

which has turned my life into one long night,

seven times cursed and seven times sealed.

 

Never shall i forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the little faces of the children

whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke

beneath a silent blue sky.

 

Never shall I forget those flames

which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence

which deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

 

Never shall I forget those moments

which murdered my God and my soul

and turned my dreams to dust.

 

Never shall I forget these things,

even if I am condemned to live

as long as God Himself.

 

Never.

 

         -Eli Wiesel

SOMETIMES SAD IS BAD

No, I didn't make a mistake. For those who have read my book you may be wondering why the seemingly contradictory title of this blog. I’ve just returned along with my oldest grandson, Josh, from an emotionally revealing ‘journey of truth’ in Poland, having visited three extermination camps, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as the Lupochowa Forest where the entire village of Jews from Tykocin were murdered and tossed into three open pits.

I visited the largest Jewish cemetery in the world; Poland. 

I learned about people who experienced the Shoah (Holocaust); the victims, the heroes and murderers from our knowledgeable and inspiring guide.

I listened to the personal stories of their family members from my fellow travelers.

I touched tombstones of those who had a proper burial.

I smelled the mildew aroma of 40,000 pairs of shoes taken from prisoners destined for death.

I saw the brick and wood remains of death camps. 

SAD IS BAD

  • when there is no one to recall a person’s life
  • when the name of someone is forgotten 
  • when one’s life story is lost in the ashes
  • when one is murdered just because he is a Jew, a Roma or Sinti (Gypsies), mentally or physically disabled, gay or a political prisoner
  • when 1 1/2 million children are killed 
  • when whole families are gassed
  • when entire towns are confined into crowded ghettos or deported to labor camps or death camps
  • when one dies by being shot, injections to the heart, hanged, tortured, beaten, raped, starved or gassed
  • when grief is aborted because trying to survive one more day is paramount
  • when the prolonged traumatic experience is repressed for decades or the rest of one’s life

Take a moment to say the name of someone you loved who has died and remember.

Take the next moment to think of a “nameless “ person.

Take action to stop genocide, to cry out against this act against humanity.

This past week I’ve come to acknowledge that sometimes...SAD IS BAD. 

– Harriet

 

GOOD RIDDANCE

 I've often said to my clients, "One cannot look ahead to the NEW unless we let go of the OLD."

"Good Riddance Day" is a tradition in NYC prior to New Year's Eve when a giant sized shredder is placed in Times Square for anyone who wishes to rid themselves of any negativity from the past year. It might be a written message or a tangible item which symbolizes one's negative memory or experience. And what happens to that shredded paper? It becomes part of the confetti used in the New Year's Eve celebration. How cool is that!

But why wait until next December. Write down your feelings, memories, people or habits that you want to eliminate from your life or acknowledge an accomplishment that helped you get rid of a negative habit.

I can't emphasize enough how helpful these rituals can be in helping one to heal and grow. It is an opportunity to "take control" of negativity in your life.

For additional encouragement, read my book SAD IS NOT BAD. It's just a click away on this website.

– Harriet

 

FRIENDS LOSING FRIENDS

Helen Keller said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched - they must be felt with the heart." And when the heart is broken because of a separation or death we must grieve. And yet how much more difficult is that experience when our grief is for a person or pet not recognized by society. We call it "disenfranchised grief". That special relationship might have been a co-worker, client, patient, doctor, therapist, ex-spouse, lover, partner, teacher, celebrity or FRIEND. 

Female friends who've had to grieve a friend's death might find relevance and support on the website "friendship dialogues.com". Read how Ellen Pearlman created this site to honor the memory of her friendship with her best friend, Madeleine.

– Harriet

STRENGTH OF SPIRIT

 

Almost all of us have a strength of spirit that may not be apparent to us until we need it. Recently, I had the privilege of listening to a young woman share her story of patience, perseverance, resilience and gratitude all related to her diagnosis of breast cancer years before she could receive proper medical treatment. She demonstrated that strength of spirit and fortunately is doing well today.

A diagnosis of a terminal disease or a chronic condition that affects quality of life will trigger reactions of grief. Feelings of grief are normal with any change in one’s life. How much more so than with such a challenging diagnosis!

However, one needn’t stay stuck with those overwhelming feelings. Face them, experience them, and then take action. 

  1. Acquire new coping skills
  2. Seek Professional support
  3. Balance your life with exercise and relaxation
  4. Build a strong support network
  5. Ask for help
  6. Pray
  7. Use the Power of Hope

You too may find that strength of spirit.

– Harriet

 

PUBLIC GRIEF VS PERSONAL GRIEF

JANUARY 28 was the 30th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy killing six astronauts and an elementary school teacher. Perhaps you were one of those who witnessed it from the ground near Cape Canaveral or you were one of the students who watched on a nationally televised broadcast. In 2003 seven astronauts died when “Columbia” disintegrated upon reentry. Similar to 9/11, these sudden, traumatic disasters affected not only our nation but people all over the world. After the shock, the disbelief, the screams, the tears, the stories, the photos, the funerals, the memorials, the public grief becomes an experience distanced by normal living. However, for any friend or family member who knew one of the victims the yearly anniversary would be “an event that occurred just recently” according to Christa McCauliffe’s husband interviewed the other day. The passage of time doesn’t necessarily lessen the sadness and missing of someone who we loved after his/her death.

GRIEF CHANGES    

Even acute grief after sudden, traumatic deaths changes. It may become less intense. The intervals between grief experiences may be lengthier. The normal reactions of shock, anger, loneliness, and fear hopefully will dissipate with healing. But the missing and the sadness may continue to be triggered at times for the rest of your life. That’s normal grief.

– Harriet

HOPE FOR HEALING IN 2016

The “Holidays” are over but grief continues. Ask that of anyone who is grieving. As I’ve stated before, holidays may trigger more intense grief reactions, but the bereaved may be triggered by “anything” or "nothing at all”. I suggest you reread my previous blogs to review how to support someone who is grieving as well as yourself with care and compassion.

My hope for the New Year is that 2016 be a healing year for you and your loved ones.

– Harriet

The Gift of Self Compassion

This is the season for gift giving. It’s a perfect time to give yourself the gifts of compassion and patience. It’s called “healthy selfishness” and it’s OK especially when you are grieving. Some suggestions for you:

 
  • Cry
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Say NO for this year
  • Play with pets
  • Music
  • Write
  • Talk
  • Walk
  • Pray
 

And give yourself permission to "just be". May your holiday be healing.

– Harriet