Sunday Book Review – Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons – Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project by Becky Aud-Jennison

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m sharing my review for a beautiful book with a very apt title – Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons, written by Becky Aud-Jennison. She is a therapist and clinician and also runs a podcast – Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project.

Blurb:

It’s Time to Invite Death Out of the Closet!

The impending or actual death of someone close to you can be devastating. It doesn’t matter if you knew it was coming, or if it was a total shock-you’ll never be the same. There is no right way to grieve, and no appropriate time frame. It’s different for everyone.

Author and therapist gone rogue, Becky Aud-Jennison, the creator of The Death Dialogues Project and podcast, has sewn together threads from people’s shared personal stories and her own experiences, using them to offer insight and comfort to those who are experiencing the loss of a loved one or want to become more death-literate.

She beautifully discusses individual factors of grief including:

  • Traumatic Grief
  • Relieved Grief
  • Who Am I Now Grief
  • Break-Ups: Death can be the great divide
  • Love Never Dies: Do not ignore signs
  • Transformation: Death becomes you

Calling on her years as a clinician, you will also find soothing, research-based techniques to help ease the ache of trauma and loss.

Many do not realize we now have choice surrounding our deaths and how our bodies are treated. Similar to birth being brought back into the home, there has been a wave of people doing the same with death, creating moving and personal experiences at the dying time and in the aftermath. Like homebirth, it may not be for everyone, but aren’t we better humans for understanding the terrain?

With this project’s aim of promoting death literacy, you will find story and commentary surrounding death and end-of-life choices (such as having a loved one’s body at home).

It’s time to take these historically “hush-hush” conversations out into the open. We all experience death and loss in our lives, and we should be talking about it.

Embrace the beautiful-horrible full spectrum of your life. Here you will also find resources and a community where you can further explore or seek support as you continue your journey.

This book will gently hold you as you increase your awareness and comfort surrounding death and is a perfect offering to others at those times when there are no words.

x

My 5 Star Review:

I’ve read several books on grief and loss and death, and I’m putting this one right up there with my recommends for anyone interested in death literacy. Like the author states, “We all experience death and loss in our lives, and we should be talking about it.”

This book gives us good insights with stories and conversations with the author and some of her clients who share their experiences on the subject of dealing with death, and things we don’t really want to know, but should. As the author states, “Death experiences can never be fully explained or compared…” adding, “We need to get death out of the closet too.” She refers to it as ‘talking about death’ because all people really want in their great times of trauma is someone to understand what they are going through. We want to hear people’s experiences on their grief journey, not from academic texts. This book is a definite balm to soothe the soul. Grief begins at the moment of diagnosis for both the patient and the loved ones. Aud-Jennison also warns that by stifling grief, it will certainly have its day. She also talks about the PTSD affect grief leaves on those left behind.

What I loved most about what this author said to those seeking grief therapy – a warning to seek out a therapist who has indeed experienced their own loss, because getting help from one who has never suffered great loss cannot possibly know the depths of grief. We will also learn how grief can wreak havoc on our bodies, “a mysterious thing that can never be taught”. So many great discussions on all aspects of grief, including how some people who are part of our lives disappear on us in our dire time of need to be surrounded by familiar people in our lives. Because many cannot handle the world which we the griever now lives in, warning: “Those are not your people.” “The absence of your loved one will forever be part of who you are now.”

The author reminds that Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief were initially written for the the patient diagnosed with the death sentence, compared to a griever’s life where we will live in and out and with grief for the rest of our days – in no particular order in a forever flux of triggers.

This book is all about the truth about death, dying, aftermath, and everything in between. I would certainly recommend this book as a guided tonic for the grieving soul.

“it is because we have felt

immeasurable love

we feel overwhelming grief

help us find the blessing

within the paradox

help us understand why

the world still turns without them”

x

©DGKaye2023

Sunday Book Review – #Poetry – Sorrowful Soul by Harmony Kent.

My Sunday Book Review is for a heartfelt read, – Harmony Kent’s new release – Sorrowful Soul. This book was written in free verse poetry and dedicated to the claimed, seven stages of grief – despite the stages in no way being linear – just ask me, one who is living with grief. A beautiful Calla Lilly was depicted for the cover. As the author expresses, the Calla Lilly is used for both weddings and funerals, and occasions in-between, but also represents tears as the water droplets form on the petals.

x

Blurb:

f we’re lucky, we meet twilight at the front door and old age creeps in on the night breeze.

Even if we make it to our twilight years, the more we age, the more loss we must endure as part of the cycle of life. Many of these poems lament death, but they also relate to broken relationships, severed friendships, and the loss of youth. This book of grief poetry is as much about saying goodbye and working through loss as it is about death and love split asunder.

This heartfelt collection provides company and compassion through the devastating journey of loss and shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone. Within these pages we share shock, numbness and denial, catapult into anger, bargaining, depression, loneliness, and guilt, and—eventually—make the seismic shift into testing the possibility of a new normal and finding acceptance.~~~~~

Praise for Slices of Soul, Book 1 in the Soul Poetry Series:

“I found my answer in this wonderful treasure-trove and have already read it three times.” Robert Fear

“I found in Slices of Soul something approaching aesthetic bliss, a sense of being connected in some way to other states – like tenderness, kindness, ecstasy – where art is the norm.” Colm Herron

“A stunning collection of poems that I read in one sitting! Unable to simply put this down until I had read the last. I love the clarity of the short poems, such clear images created in so few words or phrases. Many of them touched my heart and I will be giving them a 2nd and 3rd read!” Audrina Lane

~~~~

Praise for Life & Soul, Book 2 in the Soul Poetry Series:

“…a wonderful and relatable look on the seasons of life and the heartbreak and happiness of love and family.” Julie

“I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for some good poetry that hits you right in the feels.” Katie

“Powerful and Enlightening: I highly recommend this volume and eagerly look forward to her next collection.” Writester

My 5 Star Review:

I couldn’t wait for this book to come out in paperback, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m familiar with this author’s multi-genre talent in writing, and I especially enjoy her heartfelt poetry. The book is divided into what is said – the seven stages of grief. As the author points out, and I can attest to, these stages are by no means the law and order of grief and can and will be felt at various times after a loss, and in no specific order – Shock and Disbelief; Denial; Guilt; Anger and Bargaining; Depression, Loneliness and Reflection; Working Through; and Acceptance.

It’s difficult to write this type of heartfelt poetry if one hasn’t loved and lost someone or something, just as a reader won’t take in the breadth of it unless they too have lived loss themselves. But one doesn’t have to have lost someone to take in these evocative poems and feel both the love and the pain of loving and losing to stir up emotions and reiterate how precious life is. These stories in poetry speak of painful losses – death, youth and health.This is a beautiful book that one can pick up at anytime and open up a page to. A handy reference to revisit time and time again. This would be a lovely gift for someone who is grieving or for friends and relatives to offer some insight into the grieving process and the loneliness that ensues.

All these poems hit me hard, in fact, each and every poem spoke to me, especially, Borrowed Time from Part 1 – Shock and Disbelief:

“From wedding bells

To funeral dirge

From dancing and fun

To tears and disbelief

None could have known

How soon you’d be gone

We miss your smile

And loud, easy laughter

Your compassion

And unassuming friendship

From May to December

You withered away

And by the new year

We burned your bones

Scattered your pale ashes

To the fickle wind

And looking back

I still can’t believe

Nor properly grieve

From wedding bells

To funeral dirge

Where to now?”

Each and every poem resonated me as I endure my own great loss, and my compassion was lent to the author in her own stories of her losses. It’s difficult to pick out a favorite in this heartfelt read, but a few more that gave me pause, some favored quotes from:

No Words – “…I’ve died a hundred times since you left my life bereft”

The Worst Kind of Thief – “…The sparkle in your eyes ignited me whole”

Not Since – “…Didn’t sleep last night Nor the night before, Not since they carried you, Out the door”

Down Deep – “… And joy on the beach, All I feel now is the scratch of the sand, In this barren, strange, unknown land, You were my navigator, my pilot, My life’s one true love, And, oh my darling, I miss you so much”

Triggers – “a discarded shoe, an odd sock, or a simple visit to the shop, who ever knew the total and utter shock such simple things could induce?”

At the end of the book, Kent also leaves some important resource links for people who are in need of seeking help with mental anguish. I highly recommend this beautiful book full of verses of the human condition and emotion.

©DGKaye 2023

Free Verse Poetry – Even Though – #Grief and Loss

Some days the darkness is just too overwhelming, like no time has passed. Like a knife weilding deep into my soul, it doesn’t take much to send me right back there, to the worst day of my life. Grief is a ride I can’t seem to step off of, even the strongest of swimmers may drown. It ebbs and flows daily. Some days the tide is low, but many others, like today, a tsunami takes me over. It is only my writing to or about him that keeps myself from spontaneously combusting from excruciating grief.

Beloved Puppy

Even Though

Even though it’s been seventeen long months

Since you were taken,

Seventeens of thousands of tears I’ve shed

And continue to do so without much provocation.

I merely envision your beautiful face

And the heavens open and disperse through my eyes.

x

Even though the burning and dire need to hug you is relentless

With insatiable desire to be held by you,

If I could just pull you into me,

Just one more time,

Maybe it would suffice.

I doubt it though,

Because I know I’d never let you go.

x

Even though you’ve been gone for what feels an eternity,

The searing, pulsating pain still jackhammers my heart

With the same depths it did the moment I let go of your hand on your last breath.

It doesn’t ease.

x

Even though I want to smile when thinking of you

The embedded visions that remain on autoplay

Keep overpowering our priceless memories.

The vision of leaning over and resting my head on your heart as

I couldn’t believe you existed then you didn’t.

x

Even though I function on autopilot to get things done

The moments I take a pause to focus on you,

I fall apart all over again.

Seems I must cheat myself out of thinking about you every moment,

By suppressing with mundane life.

x

Even though I’m struggling to choose life,

It somehow doesn’t feel like much of one –

More like just existing.

I don’t speak of this to anyone –

Not that there are too many anyones left,

In my immediate life.

x

Even though you said it yourself and warned me,

The rude awakening of finding so few by my side

At the most harrowing time of my life,

It still shocks me, just adding to my numbness.

My circle of friends often kept me

From going to the darkside,

Or off the deep end,

But like sharks, darkness circles within.

x

Even though I chose to live,

I’m only half of who I was.

The biggest love of my life is gone,

And with you went my heart taking with it all the love.

The thrills are gone as nothing excites.

Your empty half of the bed remains,

Now as a monument to our love and your existence.

The visions of watching you fade away there – never go away.

x

Even though our bed is somehow a lifeline to me,

A sanctuary where we shared almost 26 years together,

Loving, listening, laughing, cuddling,

Waking one another gently from frightening nightmares,

The emptiness envelops my heart and soul, every time I climb in.

x

Even though you’re not here now to shake me gently and whisper,

“Cubby, Cubby wake up,” to remove me from my dark dreams,

Often my days are just as dark.

I don’t have you to rescue me anymore.

I never knew where I was in those dreams

Or why I’d scream for help in those episodes.

I guess I never will now,

Unless you can rescue me

From where you are.

When my fears in that darkness

Go from nightmares into real life.

©DGKaye2022

Writing as Therapy – Taking the Pain out of our Heads and on to Paper

Did you know that writing can be so very therapeutic? It’s not a myth. Take it from me who began writing at seven years old. Growing up in a dysfunctional family life with a heart filled with compassion and worry, I took to writing poems, notes, and journaling. I didn’t always show them to anyone, but I took my pain out of my head and put it on paper. It was a release.

Growing up with a narcissistic mother who mashed my father over and over until he finally died of a broken heart (underlying health issues exacerbated by his grief), my young empathic heart could feel his pain. He came to me since I was seven and poured his heart out to this broken little girl who was powerless to help him, but I was all he had to pour his heart out too. That was a huge responsibility for a little girl – a daughter to witness her father’s ongoing grief and not be able to do anything about it except summon up the bravery to approach my mother to beg her to take my father back, yet again. I received no compassion from my mother in doing so, only a slap across my face as she reminded me to mind my own business. It was my business! But my voice and hands were tied. This is about the time I learned to write out my feelings. I needed to be heard and release, if only to the universe.

Know that whatever you write is to release and doesn’t always have to be given to the person our words are directed at. It’s to get those jumbled thoughts and worries out of our heads and on to paper. Perhaps there will come a day you may want to give it to the person the words are directed to, maybe you might just burn it and vanish the thoughts away into the universe. Or just maybe, like me, you’ll journal enough through your life and end up writing books about all the things you once could never say out loud.  Either way, it’s cathartic. My small beginnings of writing on scraps of paper, eventually, made me a memoir writer. Whodathunk?

Speaking about grief, my latest podcast is live now. In this third episode, I’m talking about how when we lose a spouse, our identities change – along with everything else. I hope you will visit me on Youtube.

©DGKaye2022

The Grief Diaries – From This Side of Grief – #Depression – A Silent Killer

I don’t wish to sound like a broken record sharing my moments of grief here, but besides the fact that writing about it somehow eases the weight of my grief, I know that there are plenty of us out there who are living it and may feel an ounce of comfort or kinship with these posts. And also, undoubtedly, everyone has lost a loved one, or ultimately, will, so my thoughts here may become beneficial to others somewhere down the road. This is why I’ll soon be starting my podcast on Grief – The Real Talk, for exactly these reasons.

But know this God honest truth – not five minutes of any day since the day my husband left me here, goes by that I’m not thinking of him or speaking to him. That man was woven into my soul, and not thinking of him would be like forgetting half of my body or forgetting to put on clothes. But today, I figured it was time to share more of my thoughts here in what I like to call my Grief Diaries series. In this series I’ve been discussing thoughts and/or moments that strike hard, baring my soul so to speak, but sharing not just because I need a place to vent, but sharing my realizations in hopes of spreading awareness.

Let me start by saying that this post might seem a little dark, but grief isn’t a sunny topic. And let me also state that this post isn’t me crying out for help, but more for recognition for the so many in this sometimes dark world who can’t summon their voice. Yes, I am one of grief’s victims, and I have been working diligently with books, videos, spirit and meditations since I lost my husband so that I can try and learn how to dig my own self out of the darkness that reigns because if I want to survive and find life again I must find the life boat back to the light. It’s a difficult thing to do one’s self, but I have spent my whole life since childhood ‘finding a way’ to get through adversity. I share my struggle on this journey, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But there are the so many out there who may not be able to search for or find their strength to want to go on, no matter what their traumatic issue is.

I’m a strong woman. I built myself up that way throughout my life. I’m strong-willed and minded, but I will tell you honestly, this grieving business is a Goliath of a beast. I know what it has taken from me and can tell you, it’s not difficult to see how the weaker sometimes can’t pull through. So I felt that besides letting off a little personal steam in this post, that once again, I wanted to spread the awareness to others and want to speak up for those who may have family going through some tough times who choose not to speak about their pain, so that family may clue in.

What sparked my wanting to share this post came from my scanning through a book of material I’ve written in draft to put into a book on my grief. I am suddenly getting inspired to read through just some of the material I’ve written as I witnessed my husband’s health decline to after his passing. For now they are in a Word doc temporarily titled – Conversations and Observations, and, Obituary. I currently have oodles of permanent titles on a page listed that I will have to work with once the book is put together and I find the most fitting title.

From this side of Grief:

I am a strong woman who has lived through some terrible shit in my life but nothing, I mean NOTHING is as painful as the grief I carry with me daily from the loss of my beloved husband.

It doesn’t matter that I could almost lift park benches from the strength I’ve acquired through difficulties in life, this enormous strangle hold that suffocates daily is an opponent bigger than life. And many days it can be emotionally crippling.

I often go to the dark side since losing my other half. And no, time doesn’t ease. When the grief monster and the bubble of sadness that comes along for the ride appear, I find myself in yet another duel. These duels become more and more trying and they don’t dissipate with time, despite everyone else in our circles forgetting we are in this grief for life and it can take a long time – or forever, to climb back into joyful living. Our grief never leaves. Even with however much time it may take for it to come to a slow simmer that resides within without constant bubbling over, mine never seems to leave, I am only still learning how to temporarily suppress it. So we are forced to find a way to continue on with our lives or merely just exist. I am choosing life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that it some days doesn’t knock the actual wind out of my breathing sails.

The loneliness is overwhelming. I am naturally a tactile, social being, often dubbed a social butterfly. Nobody is physically here for me, and I’m not one to cry for help to burden others. But I can’t help but wonder, where are the people who used to be in my life? Why did family forget me after such a traumatic event that goes on daily? There I said it, and I’m going to leave that one alone – for now, because, honestly, the people I’m related to by blood give me enough fodder to write a book, erm, make that a tome.

semi colon heart

Some days I’m living on the precipice between living and existing. I am, me, myself and I. I was never that person who got depressed, but I can surely say I know what so many in this world struggle with as this visiting sadness that looms large over me has given me new understanding. I don’t want to call my sadness depression, more like PTSD. My mind too often drifts in a continuous cycle of visionary reminders of watching my husband die daily before my eyes. This is some tough shit to erase from the play list of home videos. It’s a repetitive cycle that is easily triggered by a memory, a random object in my home, or just plain looking at photos of my husband (which surround my home like a mausoleum because I need them to be all around me). I’ve thankfully, never been a depressed person despite some of the awful things that have happened in my life, and knowing depression does exist on my maternal side, I am grateful I didn’t inherit that dis-ease. I may get temporarily depressed, knowing that’s the wrong word I sometimes substitute for sadness, but I don’t allow myself to live in darkness and I fight back with all my might not to allow myself to let a sad day turn into many in a row. Perhaps I’m lucky that way? But there are plenty of people who live in deep depression and can manage to keep that under a cloak when around others. This can lead to dangerous outcomes.

I’m not that person who calls people to wa wa my troubles and moan. Instead, I am silent and solitary. My cries for help will come in subtle ways, maybe talking to a friend and almost begging them to come visit, invading that fine line with my silent cry for help so as not to sound desperate, when in fact there are days when I am.

People are busy. We don’t wish to act sucky so we stuff down our silent hell when all we are craving is some human connection, a hug, an ear for us to cast off our fears, fears that sometimes keep us in the dark and have us questioning ourselves on why are we still here. Why am I here where nobody has time when I could be with one who my heart aches for?

Often it’s the crushing, suffocating pain of having to tolerate our own existence that leads to the many suicides labeled as mental health issues. Funny how I see in my own life how nobody has the time for a cry for help, even when it is deafeningly silent. But they make time for the damned funerals.

Depression, like grief, is a silent thief that traps us at its will. It comes like a tornado sweeping over us, leaving us nothing to grab hold of in its wake, it can often be called a silent killer.

Us grievers, the sad, lonely, or depressed, don’t typically cry for help.  And for the some that do, they aren’t always heard. This is why so often these people commit suicide. They don’t feel they are being heard, loved or cared about. They’re misunderstood for craving attention when in fact, they are, and sometimes that attention  they didn’t receive could have been the very lifeline that saved them. Connection and companionship are a crucial need for a griever, especially one who lives alone. Those who don’t understand how depression can take hold of someone in their darkest moments should pay more attention to the signs, without judgement. We watch movies and news reels about people who feel there’s no help for them and choose to end their pain, all too often. And their loved ones sit in question. Asking themselves, why didn’t I see the signs? Because you don’t always see signs as many depressed are clever at masquerading their pain with smiles and jokes with their pretended happiness. But if you listen and learn not just to the words, but the silences in between, you can learn how to read between the lines and you just may hear.

I remind you all that if you have a person in your life suffering from a situation, to give them a thought once in awhile. If you noticed their silences, patterns, or dispositions have changed, check up on them. If you noticed they don’t show up like they used to or don’t call you, take that as a sign they are in retreat mode and could use a little company, even if they say they are fine – because they are not. If they are going through an ordeal in their life, pick up a phone and make a point to get together with them or just go visit them. Take it from me. I will never beg, and neither will many others. Please have compassion for someone in your life going through a difficult time. Most of the time, their silence is not a good thing. Take it from one who knows.

I wrote a post awhile ago about the symbolism of the semi-colon not just being a punctuation mark, but a survivor symbol – we are making it through, or have made it through, after a life-altering pause. Our story is not over because we choose to fight on.

Semi colon pause

©DGKaye 2022

Sunday Book Review – Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen – Grief, Loss and a Path to Healing

Welcome to my Sunday book review. Today I’m reviewing one of the most important books I’ve read yet on grief and loss and a path to healing by Christina Rasmussen – Second Firsts. She received her masters in bereavement in 1998, and as she claims, when she had to live in her own words in 2006 when she lost her own husband at age 35, nothing she learned had prepared her for such loss. She knew her husband’s fate, yet when she lay with him in his final moments of life listening to his last heartbeats, she felt like she had died with him. This is my life! She explains how she came to write this book, questioning herself how she could tell people their hearts would someday mend when she felt her own would never. “Grief takes us into the Waiting Room but our Survivor fear of losing it all again is what keeps us there.” Below, I’d like to share her message to the reader in the beginning of this book:

“I have lived in the shadow of loss-the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever.

I have grieved like a professional mourner-in every waking moment, draining every ounce of my life force.

I died-without leaving my body.

But I came back, and now it’s your turn.

I have learned to remember my past-without living in it.

I am strong, electric, and alive, because I chose to dance, to laugh, to love, and to live again.

I have learned that you can’t re-create the life you once had – you have to reinvent a life for yourself.

And that reinvention is a gift, not a curse.

I believe your future self is a work of art and that science can help you create it.

If you’re lost . . . if you’re gone . . . if you can barely absorb the words on this page . . . I want you to hold this truth in your heart: when it’s your time to go, you won’t wish you had spent more time grieving; you’ll wish you had spent more time living.

That’s why I’m here. And why you are, too. Let’s live like our lives depend on it.”

Blurb:

A widow and therapist explores grief, loss, and our innate resilience in this updated guide, drawing on neuroscience and personal experience to lead the bereaved through the five stages of healing

After studying to become a therapist and crisis intervention counselor—even doing her master’s thesis on the stages of bereavement—Christina Rasmussen thought she understood grief. But it wasn’t until losing her husband to cancer in her early 30s that she truly grasped the depths of sorrow and pain that accompany loss. Using the knowledge she gained while wading through her own grief and reading hundreds of neuroscience books, Rasmussen began to look at experiences in a new way. She realized that grief plunges you into a gap between worlds—the world before loss and the world after loss. She also realized how easy it is to become lost in this gap.

In Second Firsts, Rasmussen walks you through her Life Reentry process to help you break grief’s spiral of pain, so you can stop simply surviving and begin to live again. She shows you that loss can actually be a powerful catalyst to creating a life that is in alignment with your true passions and values. The resilience, strength, and determination that have gotten you through this difficult time are the same characteristics that will help you craft your wonderful new life. Her method, which she has used successfully with thousands of clients, is based on the science of neuroplasticity and focuses on consciously releasing pain in ways that both honor suffering and rewire the brain to change your perception of the world and yourself.

Using practical exercises and stories drawn from her own life and those of her clients, Rasmussen guides you through five stages of healing that help you open up to new possibilities. From acknowledging your fear, to recognizing where you stand now, to taking active steps toward a new life, Rasmussen helps you move past the pain and shows that it’s never too late to step out of the gap and experience life again—as if for the first time.

My 5 Star Review:

This book should be on every griever’s reading list. A raw, compassionate telling begins this book of Rasmussen’s own experience with a great loss precedes the premise of this book, a path to healing through her 5 Stages ‘Reentry Model’ – how to enter back into the world of the living from an abyss of grief and loss and a feeling of loss of our own identity. The author will tell us about ‘the Waiting Room’, a space where us sufferers are stuck between the inseparable past and the unfathomable future, and our ‘invisible losses’. As she states in the beginning of her book, she got her masters degree on bereavement in 1998 and had to live her own words in 2006 when her own husband died, claiming, nothing she’d been taught prepared her for her own grief and loss.

The author tells us that grief makes us question our reality, our safety, and our abilities. “You are more than your loss; you are a whole human being waiting to come back to life.” Rasmussen explains she wrote this book to help us see the light and build a bridge from our past to where we are now. When our identities have been ripped from us through grief and uncertainty and despite our wanting to move forward, we get stuck, and this book will reignite parts of us that have been shattered by loss.

This book is about the five stages of self-guided discovery and reentry process. It teaches us how to use the brain’s ability to rewire itself to help move past fear and sadness that looms over us. “You can live as you grieve.” Teaching us that we can meld our two worlds of grief and living. “Starting over isn’t only about the life you leave behind. It’s about the life that lies ahead of you.”

She speaks at first of the three stages to recover from loss by creating new habits to rewire our brains instead of staying stuck in grief and making it our default mode. Focus on new things to move forward. Loss forces us to leave behind the life we knew and we can’t just push out the old life, so we’re stuck in a gap between two lives – the ‘waiting room’, where we reside while afraid to take steps forward in our new present life because we’re safe in that grief. “It’s not the grief that stops us from starting life over, but fear of losing that life all over again.” Fear keeps us stuck in grief. She teaches us to create a ‘launchpad’, not staying in survival mode for distraction, but to move forward. “Loss can be a launchpad into a new dimension of living.”

Five stages of Reentry 1. Get real – losses are real, grieve and acknowledge and validate your loss and feelings to begin getting real about our new life. Explore and confront our grief, write out our invisible losses. The more we understand our invisible losses (loss of security, support, identity, etc.), the better we leave ‘the waiting room’. Instead of reflecting on our futures, the grieving brain stays locked in the past – the ‘infinite loop of loss’. 2. Plug in – learn to replace fear induced procrastination with action. Reconnecting with life in small steps, ie: going out, making plans, inviting life back into grief. And letting go of what no longer serves us – including relationships. 3. Shift – “When the dream that was, no longer can be, you have to dream a different dream.” She explains how switching ‘Survivor’ thoughts back to the living by getting ready to join back into life, using positive thoughts to overcome the voice of loss. “The goal is to end the habit of repeating thoughts of loss by instead repeating thoughts of life.” How to face the fears that block our happiness. How to shift our thoughts using affirmation and visualization because “Grief creates habits and beliefs in our minds that don’t serve us.” She demonstrates methods to learn to love ourselves again by focusing on people who lift us and our positive attributes and offers us to take ten minutes to visualize us in a brighter future. “Evolution does not take place when our hearts break but when they mend.” Advising us to create a new relationship with ourselves and find a supportive tribe. 4. Discover – she reminds that our ‘Survivor’ self needs to get out of the ‘Waiting Room’ with our false sense of feeling wanting to remain comfortable there and get back into a mindset of connecting with the ‘Thriver’ self that remains within us buried. Relearn how we overcame and triumphed over losses of the past to create a happy future. 5. Reenter Life – Finding your new life, dreaming big, and setting goals. The author instructs us to write out goals we want from our new life, and affirm those aspirations daily, as we get what we focus on. She speaks about the certainty that we will have moments of guilt and betrayal as we venture on to a new life, and possibly a new relationship, reminding that ‘Survivor’ mode will occasionally surface – “Because of your sadness, you have more depths in you to feel joy.” And adds, we also gain the compassion to help mend other’s broken hearts. We are told to create a separate place for the grief and guilt that will occasionally push through and to envision a separate housing unit for those feelings to dwell in. It’s okay to visit there when we need, but we know the way back, and not to stay there. Once we’ve processed our grief, “Reentry doesn’t mean we forget those we once loved or forget our pain. It means we remember how to live.”

Rasmussen concludes by saying some pieces of our old life are now scattered in the universe, never needing to be found again, but tells us our hearts will give birth to new pieces. The new ‘me’ is born from loss, every cell changed in us when our hearts broke.

This book is a most helpful guide to help grievers learn to separate grief from getting on with living, in stages.

Poignant Quotes:

“The heart remembers the past by loving in the present.”

“There are no words to describe the experience of losing someone you love more than life itself. You cannot know the feeling unless you have experienced it.”

“Loss is not something that keeps happening to you; it’s an event.”

“In the midst of his death, I lost my life too…we were both in a place between two worlds.”

“He died on July 21, 2006 at 2:00am. I died with him at 2:01 am.”

“The silence of grief attacks your body.”

“Everything about me changed, and everything about the world around me was altered forever.”

“Why hadn’t the world prepared me for this agony?”

“Mending is the ability to reenter life with a broken heart, while it’s getting fixed.”

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Bearing the Unbearable by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a poignant book, written from her own experience with grief and loss, as well as shared interviews with some of her bereavement clients, by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore.

As many of you know, I’ve read a number of books on grief – from the clinical to the afterlife, and one thing I can say about this book is that it stands out from others because it talks about all aspects and changes of life we go through when grief strikes – not just the expected things. Dr. Cacciatore has ‘worn the shoes’. One other thing I’d like to note about this book is that I would highly recommend everyone to read this book. Why? Because everyone in the world will have to experience it in their lifetimes, and for those who haven’t yet, this book gives amazing insights. It’s also a good book for those who know or love a griever and don’t know how to act around them or what to say. It distinctly states what us grievers need in our new life path from those in our lives.

Blurb:

If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human. 

Dr. Cacciatore is featured in the 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See, from Oprah, Prince Harry, and Apple TV.

Bearing the Unbearable is a Foreword INDIES Award-Winner — Gold Medal for Self-Help.
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When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.

Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.

Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups.

My 5 Star Review:

Before I go into my review of this book, I will simply state, as a griever myself, that this book is one of the best books I’ve read on grief because it isn’t a clinical diagnosis book, it isn’t a guide on how to get through grief, but a tender telling of all the emotions a griever will experience throughout the rest of their lives, the triggers, and most of all, also beneficial to anyone who has ever known a griever and is lost for words or knowing how to act around someone who is grieving.

The book begins with a prologue of the author giving us a snapshot of her own grief story. She shares some of the questions all grievers ask and wonders how the world can continue on when her world was left empty – a common thread between all grievers. The author tells us she hopes for other grievers to feel they are in a safe place for us to be with our broken hearts. She warns that this book isn’t instruction on how to get over grief, but how to learn to live with the undeniable ebbs and flows and triggers of grief that will remain a part of our lives, for the rest of our lives. She talks about grievers needing others to reach out to us, and just how to do it by telling of her own experiences, and that of others she has consoled.

Dr. Cacciatore speaks of how death will affect every single person one day in their own individual way. The more we love, the more we will grieve. She also delves into how grief is manifested and what the shock of a traumatic death can leave on us – sometimes and often, leading to depression and/or PTSD, the repercussions of the shocking experience of losing a loved one, and how that often leads to running to substances to numb our pain. The good doctor touches on all the various types of trauma and grief from losing a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse, etc., covering the gamut of what each of these relationships lost leave the living loved one to endure and the various habits and personality characteristics that are altered in the wake of, including the physical ailments many of us experience in light of grief, of which, many can become life threatening – especially when self-care desire disappears.

Most importantly to me, the author speaks of those in our circles who tend to abandon us in our hours of need because they don’t know what we need, and fears of talking about our lost loved ones causing more pain, explaining quite the opposite, how us grievers aren’t looking for solutions, only an ear to hear us speak of our great loss with a compassionate heart. “…But please just sit beside me. Say nothing. Do not offer a cure, or a pill, or a word, or a potion. Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me. Please be gentle with me. Please self, be gentle with me too. I will not ever ‘get over it’ so please don’t urge me down that path.”

“Traumatic death provokes traumatic grief.” Truest words. The author gets into the body’s reactions to grief, comparing a diagnosis or a death edict having that ‘fight or flight’ feeling within us setting off in perceived physchological threat within. Only, the fight or flight feeling never really leaves. She goes into the despair the griever learns to live within. “This is grief’s most piercing message: there is no way around-the only way is through”. As she states, those who don’t deal with their grief and won’t allow themselves to feel, are only suppressing their grief, tells us it will eventually manifest in unexpected ways. The doctor warns that suppressing grief is responsible for so many addictions, abuse and social disconnection.

We learn about how some people’s cry for help – or, the lack of those cries, can often lead to that griever taking their own life. She warns that grief always has a place at the table. Talking about grief is necessary and should never be stifled. The distractions we use for ourselves as grievers is also discussed as our everlasting unquenchable yearning for our lost loved ones never goes away.

Another poignant discussion in this book delves into the loss of a child and how that sometimes leads parents to unintentionally neglect their living children while focusing on the loss of another. We also learn how crying is a natural valve to relieve stress and explains the biochemical essense of grief tears and their differentiation to other tears.

In this book there is a dedicated chapter to grievers on how to tell our friends and family what we need from them in our hours of grief. Letting them know our triggers, asking for our acceptance when we aren’t up to a family gathering, a cry for help, and more. She offers up solutions like, writing a note to family letting them know our needs and reassuring them to not hold back conversations of our lost loved one because that is one of the most needed conversation many grievers crave, is talking about our lost loved one.

Time is linear with grief, sometimes minutes feel like years, years feel like minutes. The author tells us how easily a grief moment will steal our breath. “It is both feared enemy and beloved companion who never leaves.” Reminding, we won’t stop grieving until we stop loving. “Those we love deeply who have died are part of our identity; they are a part of our biography. We feel that love in the marrow of our bones.”

The author offers writing to a lost loved one as a great therapy. Read it and weep as she explains these tears of release are good for the soul. She also talks about making a memory box we can revisit to soothe our souls in memory.

All different types of grief are covered in this book, from the ones we carry for our lost one to the kind where we blame ourselves for. You will find stories here that demonstrate things that can happen for those who withhold their grief.

I loved her analogy of grief ‘ it’s a big bowl of grief broth’, describing how just one more ingredient can overpower us with overwhelming grief.

Poignant Quotes:

“No intervention and no interventionist can ‘cure’ our grief. And we are not broken-we are brokenhearted.”

“Grief is not a medical disorder to be cured.

Grief is not spiritual crisis to be resolved.

Grief is not a social woe to be addressed.

Grief is, simply, a matter of the heart-to be felt.”

“When we cannot hold in our arms our loved ones who’ve died, we hold them in our hearts. This is being with grief.”

“When you’re feeling tired of our sadness, just remember that we are supremely more tired of their dead-ness.”

“Losing our beloved brings a pain unlike any other-and this pain is- legitimately ours. Being with grief is terrifyingly painful, yet when we live our grief honestly, it has the mysterious power to deepen the meaning of our lives. This is the gift-curse of grief.”

Whoever survives the test must tell his story. ~ Elie Wiesel

©DGKaye2022

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to my September edition of Realms of Relationships at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog Magazine that I contribute to monthly. There are many kinds of relatioships, but often, we forget about the one with ourselves.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care

 

 

Relationships with ourselves – Self-Care

 

Welcome to my Realms of Relationships column at Smorgasbord Blog Magazine. Today I want to talk about the most important relationship we can have, and that’s the one we have with ourselves. It’s often easy to overlook ourselves, especially when times are tense, fast, and frazzled with life’s daily grind. And if we have loved ones to care for on top of daily living, often, the last person being served is usually ourselves.

 

I’m a living testament of what self-neglect can leave behind as resulting damage. Often, we get so wrapped up in our lives and lose track of time – the time we let ourselves go. So yes, self-compassion and self-care are just as essential for us to live in good health – not just to survive.

 

Sometimes, some of the most nurturing people forget that taking care of others requires us to be in good health in order to care of someone else. But often in the middle of trauma, our focus often falls on the loved one we’re caring for – both young and old, without giving a second thought for our own well-being. I know this because I lived it.

 

 

Self Care

 

Self- care encompasses the daily things we do for ourselves to keep our health in check – hygiene, eating properly, taking meds and required vitamins, and getting in exercise and enough sleep. Most importantly, any ailments we feel coming on should be dealt with as soon as possible once we notice things aren’t running as smoothly with our bodies, and not left to fester until such time we decide to stop pushing aside things a doctor needs to have a look at. And then there is emotional health.

 

If we are living through a stressful time, not just our physical health needs tending to, but, we need an outlet to relieve some of the mental angst that can sometimes translate to more physical ailments. Trust me, it’s not a myth, stress and worry have the ability to do great damage within us. Just like a health regimen followed daily creates cumulative benefits that add up daily, not following one will most certainly chip away at all the goodness we’ve already accrued through time as we continue to neglect ourselves.

 

Taking care of ourselves is vital for us to function optimally, but especially when someone else is relying on us to take care of them. When chaos or trauma strike, it shouldn’t mean that we abandon what’s important for us to remain in good health, but so often we’ll sacrifice what’s good for us and put others before us. Here’s what we need to know about taking care of ourselves:

 

 

  • Make sure to get enough sleep – not getting enough sleep can initiate other health problems.
  • Make mealtime a routine at least twice a day if you can’t manage three squares. If you eat a good breakfast it can sustain you through the day in case you do happen to miss out on lunch. But even more important to eat a healthy dinner, especially if we’re missing that lunch.
  • Don’t stop taking important vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re deficient in them. Not eating properly during stressful times, then not taking supplementation, doubles the drain on our bodies leaving us without efficient fuel or nutrients.
  • Take a timeout and go for a walk, read a chapter, listen to music – whatever you enjoy for a mental health break from high stressed life. If you’re caring for someone 24/7, arrange for someone to come by and give you a break for some down time and time to get household essentials looked after, and maybe even to eke out some personal time.

 

You can take this Self Well-Being test here to see how you’re doing: Berkeley Wellbeing Survey

 

Take care of yourself

 

How I can attest to this advice? Because I became one of those self-neglecters.

 

During my husband’s illness when I was caring for him 24/7, the last thing on my mind was about what I needed. While my world was spiraling out of sense, I didn’t care about eating properly, sometimes not eating at all. I had no appetite. I’d sneak in a shower when my husband would sleep, or if one of his personal support workers were bathing him.

 

I was full of preliminary grief and anxiety, and I wasn’t hungry. . . Please continue reading at Sally’s Smorgasbord to learn the repercussions after we forget to take care of ourselves.

 

 

Source: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

 

 

©DGKaye2021