How To Grieve A Pregnancy Loss

Pink blue ribbon awareness (isolated with clipping path) bow color for newborn birth defect, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pregnancy Loss on helping hand (Pink blue ribbon awareness (isolated with clipping path) bow color for newborn birth defe

By Susan Devaney

“I think it’s very common for a woman to feel their loss isn’t deemed as significant as the death of someone who lived and breathed on earth,” Julia Bueno UKCP, a psychotherapist specialising in pregnancy loss and author of The Brink of Being, tells British Vogue of perinatal loss. “The pregnancy loss community and charities have been fighting this misunderstanding for decades now, and are slowly making progress. Connecting with others who have been through pregnancy loss can often be very nourishing and a reminder that perinatal loss is a profound experience.”

This year, many high profile women, including the Duchess of Sussex, have openly discussed the pain of pregnancy loss. Nevertheless, it’s a topic that’s still shrouded in shame and fear, leaving some women to feel that their perinatal loss isn’t significant enough to be fully grieved. “Clinically, we also know miscarriage can increase the risk of serious anxiety, depression and trauma, so I would encourage everyone to take their feelings seriously,” says Bueno. “The Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s are both great resources of information and support.”

Below, Bueno shares her learnings on pregnancy loss and grief.

What are the stages of grief a woman may experience after having a miscarriage?

When it comes to bereavement, we often talk about someone “going through certain stages” but Bueno doesn’t believe this is the case. “I don’t believe there are ‘stages of grief’ for any bereavement, including that of a miscarriage,” she says. “Therapists tend to think more of feelings coming and going in grief, rather than ‘moving through’ them. It’s common for a woman to feel a number of things during the days, weeks and even months after her loss. This may be heightened after repeated miscarriage. You may feel a tremendous sadness, of course, at what you’ve lost, but also anger at the injustice of it – or even anger at the lack of understanding that often comes your way.”

According to The Miscarriage Association, more than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Yet, pregnancy loss “resides at the bottom of the pecking order of grief in our culture”. “A woman may also fear her future fertility, and of getting pregnant again – no pregnancy after miscarriage is easy,” continues Bueno. “But also it’s very common to feel envious of other pregnant women, although this is particularly tough to talk about.”

What can be done to help ease grief?

“Most importantly, after a pregnancy loss you should allow herself to grieve,” says Bueno. “Our culture has, historically, minimised the experience and grief of miscarriage and this can send a message for women to ‘get on with it’, or at least not to grieve too long. But the grief of a miscarriage is real and like any other grief, and although a woman mourns a ‘baby-to-be’, she may well have had a very strong bond with it.”

For this reason, in Bueno’s book The Brink of Being, she discusses the ‘child in mind’ that “emerges while trying to conceive a pregnancy, and probably well before then, too. This child, and all the future family life that went with it, needs to be mourned.”

While grieving, engagements may arise that prove difficult. “You’re entitled to protect yourself from hurtful situations – such as going to a baby shower, and to take time to get back on your feet. This may mean asking for time off work, and time out of socialising, too,” says Bueno. “You may also need to let your body recover too – miscarriages can be physically gruelling, especially if late in gestation (a miscarriage can happen up until 23 weeks and six days of a pregnancy). They can involve excruciating physical pain and weeks or even months of bleeding.”

What advice can you offer to a friend who has experienced a recent miscarriage?

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say after a family member or a friend has experienced pregnancy loss. “I wouldn’t offer advice. I would listen,” says Bueno. “Asking a recently bereaved woman, ‘Tell me what happened’ would mean so much to many, who I have spoken to over the years. Having a compassionate curiosity above all else would be wonderful. Most women want to tell their story of their pregnancy from the start, until the ongoing end of it.”

How can you support your partner as they grieve, too?

Pregnancy loss also greatly affects the couple – not just the woman who carried the child. “Male partners are often ignored after pregnancy loss because they feel they have to ‘step up’ and be stoic while their pregnant partner suffers physical and emotional pain,” says Bueno. “Others assume they are coping well because they are doing this, and as a result they tend to focus on the once-pregnant woman. Also, men tend to grieve in ways that look differently from women – they ‘do’ rather than ‘feel’, and this can be misinterpreted as them not feeling so deeply.”

She continues: “In my experience, female partners are often assumed to be good at coping, just by virtue of the fact they are a woman – so they are ignored, too. Partners can be out of sync with their feelings, and being open and honest with each other about them is so important if they are to help each other.”

Complete Article HERE!

Writing Into and Out of My Long-Distance Grief

Mourning on a wintry day at the end of a year that has all been winter.


I walk out, steering the stroller with icy fingers. I pass the house that always appears as if someone is moving in or out, the gray house with a garage full of ugly toys, the white house with an attractive couple who dine every day at 7 p.m., which I know because I peek in on my daily quarantine walks, comforted by the sight of the woman’s top bun and the man’s beard as they sit across from each other at a farmhouse table.

Today is winter. A crisp, cold, sunny day, the kind that makes you think for a few hours that perhaps this — the end of the year in Michigan — isn’t too bad. But when I reach the park, it is all sorrow. Each blade of grass, shimmering in December light, is sorrow. The crackle of each remaining leaf is sorrow.

Muslims recite the azan — the call to prayer — in the ear of every newborn, but we leave it out of the final prayer for the deceased. The point is that our time here is as brief as the moment between the call to prayer and the start of prayer. Now, in the park, the journey each drop of melted snow makes from branch to wilted grass is sorrow.

For those, like me, living far from home, there is a worry so common it is banal: the Call. The call that comes when a loved one is hurt or dying. We brace ourselves against it, convinced that anticipation is inoculation against grief. To this day, I sleep with my phone on silent only when I am back in Pakistan; home is the place where late-night calls don’t seize the ground beneath you.

In Michigan, when the phone rings in the middle of the night, it’s usually just a wrong number or a relative who thinks America is five hours behind and not 10. Sometimes though, it is a sunny morning, the house smells of coffee and the baby is playing with tiny toes when the phone rings, and something in you, that animal that senses danger before it manifests, tells you that it’s bad news.

My husband once asked my father if he believed in saints. Abbu responded that if there was any saint in his life, it was his last surviving uncle, Chacha Jee. On Dec. 1, Chacha Jee died, his lungs, liver and heart collapsing in quick succession in an emergency ward in Pindi, Pakistan.

The official diagnosis was pneumonia, but the symptoms were close enough to Covid-19 for them to transfer him to the Covid ward. No family was allowed to visit him in his final moments. Globally, 1.6 million people have died of the disease this year. Many were also isolated from their loved ones in their last days, even if they lived in the same town, let alone across the world.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the famous Urdu poet, wrote that during his years in prison, time collapsed so that “the occurrences of a century seem to be like the happenings of yesterday.” Grief, particularly of the remote kind, seems to work in the same way.

Suddenly, I am 5 again, and Chacha Jee and his wife, Baji, have come over, armed with the Sandwich House they painstakingly made for our birthday parties. There is a garden of lettuce leaves and cottages made of sliced bread. In the middle stands Mr. Potato, on legs of toothpicks, with a bit of carrot for a nose.

Then I am 9, spending sticky summer afternoons at their house, Chacha Jee making the hot chai such a hot day calls for.

Then I am 25 and sharing sly smiles with my brothers because Chacha Jee is singing his favorite song: “Tu Ganga ki mauj main Jamna ka dhara /Ho rahega milan yeh humara tumhara.” (You are the wave of the Ganges, I am a stream of the Jamuna /Our union is bound to happen.)

These are the happenings of yesterday, yet far more real than the ephemera of sun grazing the backyard, my foggy breath, my mother’s voice over WhatsApp, saying that Chacha Jee has passed.

My father was only 30 when my grandmother died, and often relatives would try to reminisce about her with him. Abbu, resolutely private in his mourning, firm in his belief that one takes grief to the prayer mat and leaves it there, would quote the poet Ahmed Faraz. “Dukh fasana nahi ke tujh se kahen /Dil bhi mana nahi ke tujh se kahen.” (Neither was my grief a story, that I may tell you /Nor did my heart agree, that I may tell you.)

In the style of a child forever looking up to her father, I aspire to that, but that is not how I process grief. Instead, even as I am on the phone, I think to myself, I will write into and out of this.

“What skies this earth has inhaled,” wrote Ameer Minai, and Chacha Jee was that — a benevolent sky over everyone who knew him. Born in a rural Punjabi village where men rarely spoke to children and never showed affection to their wives, Chacha Jee carved out a path of his own. I remember him arranging saucers, pouring out cups of chai for Baji and himself. Complimenting the little frocks my cousins and I wore for Eid, when every other man would consider that frivolous.

The sun is now setting upon that world, but without a doubt, that world was there. I saw it — where the worth of a man was his brooding silence, his coldness, his anger. There was that line of fathers, haughty and unforgiving. And there was that childless father of us all, Chacha Jee, laughing his shrill, girlish laughter, joking with everyone, treating even the youngest child with wonder and love and curiosity.

He was a captain in the Pakistan Army. Sent to Germany for training, he tricked an American officer into believing the pungent taramira oil he used to smooth his hair was a Pakistani delicacy to be enjoyed by the spoonful. At 82, he drove himself from Pindi to our home village in Talagang every other week, although my love for him will not allow me to sugarcoat this: Chacha Jee was a truly terrible driver, with a recklessness that was not complimented by capability.

If Chacha Jee was modern enough to have shunned those older, tormented ways of being, he was still hospitable in a way that only someone brought up in the communality of the village could be. He settled in the city but brought the wide-open doors of the dhok with him. When I had a fever and my mother was not around, Abbu deposited me at Chacha Jee and Baji’s house for the night, because there was no one in the family who cared for the sick as they did.

A Palestinian friend tells me that in Arabic they say, “Ili raba ma maat”: The one who raises others never dies.

Now I am a mother, and I find that grieving with a child is odd. The world tumbles on its axis, and yet complete despair seems impractical, because there is a hungry mouth to be fed, a pair of curious eyes watching as you weep. That day we learned that Chacha Jee was gone, my youngest brother, who was visiting, and I kept seeking the baby, not for catharsis (babies are terrible, squirmy huggers) but for comfort. He is new. He has years and years and years, inshallah. He will go places, to spots in time, where none of us will.

“Your absence has gone through me,” W.S. Merwin wrote, “Like thread through a needle. /Everything I do is stitched with its color.” And so it is with being a parent; every feeling, high or low, is refracted through that identity, considered in the context of that tiny body lolling around on the lime green quilt. Chacha Jee, then, is another part of my life that I will not be able to share with my children. I add him to the tablet full of real things — people I touched, places I trod — that will live on only as stories. And yes, stories are important. I know that because why else would I be here with you?

My mother tells me of a time when she visited her grandfather. He was remembering the people he had known in his life, laughing mostly to himself as he relayed this story or that. Ammi sat with him, mostly out of deference, slightly impatient because she didn’t know any of the people he was talking about. Suddenly, she realized that he was telling her all this because everyone who did know the people in his stories was gone.

Children can be brutal to the past. My brother remembers standing in a row for our grandfather’s funeral prayer and having a 4-year-old cousin whisper to him, “I bet it’s going to be Grandma next.” Everyone was together in the village for three days of mourning, during which the little kids ran around, hopping from one house to another. For months they remembered those days with extreme fondness. “We had such fun at Grandpa’s funeral,” they remarked.

But I am obsessed with my parents, and given the way these things go, there is a decent chance that my children will be, too, not for my sake but because that is where any honest attempt at understanding their own selves would lead them. Lives should be led in the present, the eye has to look to the future, but all meaning is past.

So where does that leave us, on this wintry day at the end of a year that has all been winter? In the past, I have been embittered by mourning deceased family members from afar, while everyone back home gets together and seeks catharsis in crowded rooms. This time, we are all far apart.

In 2020, the congregation of grief is online. We call one another and spin stories, which we then rehear from others and wonder: Did this story start with me, or are we all saying the same things? On the family thread, I send a screenshot of Chacha Jee laughing with his mouth wide open, the baby curled up in tummy time in the top right corner. A cousin quotes Khalid Sharif: “Bichra kuch iss ada se ke rut hi badal gayi /Ik shakhs saray shehr ko veeran kar gaya.” (He left, and the season changed /He left, and left the city desolate.)

For my brother, more resolute in his faith than I am, the consolation is clear. As Muslims, we believe that Muhammad will never abandon a lover of Muhammad. And Chacha Jee loved Muhammad, the cousin and daughter and grandsons of Muhammad, the followers of Muhammad, and beyond. Chacha Jee will be at peace. It is us, the living, that I worry about.

I worry for Baji, who will wake up without a partner of more than 50 years; her loss is its own universe. My father and mother, who will miss the kindest shadow in their lives. And us — my brothers and I, the baby. Life will distract us; it is good at doing that. We will have other people to love and be loved by.

All day, my brother and I hummed softly to ourselves, stray lyrics that let us obliquely touch the place that hurt. I started “Tu Ganga ki Mauj” but stopped after a verse. The next morning, I put on the coffee and turned on a song by Mehdi Hassan: “Muhabbat karne walay kam na honge /Teri mehfil mein lekin hum na honge.” (Your congregation will still have other lovers /It’s just that I will be there no more.)

Complete Article HERE!

7 Films to Help Children Dealing With Grief

We are at a time when large numbers of children are experiencing loss. Here are seven movies to help them develop coping skills.

Lewis MacDougall plays a young boy with a sick mother in the fantasy drama “A Monster Calls.”

By Stacy Brick

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: The pandemic has plunged the world into a crisis of grief. It has caused the deaths of more than 290,000 people in the United States, many of them grandparents and parents. In New York State alone, 4,200 children lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19 between March and July, according to a study from the United Hospital Fund. (These were the most recent figures available on parental death from Covid.)

For any family who lost a loved one this year, regardless of the cause of death, the pandemic has kept them from being able to properly mourn their loss. And now the holiday season is here, which can be a grief trigger, especially for kids.

Children who lose a parent are at higher risk for lasting mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Supporting a grieving child involves normalizing their feelings while giving them tools to cope — talking about death, however, can sometimes feel overwhelming. Parents and children may both be reluctant to have conversations that bring up difficult emotions, but it’s important for parents to provide opportunities to acknowledge their child’s feelings.

Film can be a gift in these times. Often, a movie about death can provide just enough distance for a productive discussion. Giving children examples of others’ loss can help them feel less isolated in their own bereavement; watching a character in a film can get the child thinking about their own grief journey and the tools they might use to cope.

The following films, suitable for children ages 6 and older, offer helpful ways to explore death and the accompanying emotions, while providing parents an opening to talk about loss. Content that might be disturbing to young children is noted.

Actor Anthony Gonzalez is the voice of 12-year-old Miguel in the Pixar film “Coco.”

Coco (2017)

109 minutes; Rated PG; available on Disney+

This colorful, Academy Award-winning Pixar film based around the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), follows 12-year-old Miguel’s journey to the Land of the Dead. While there, he unlocks family secrets and learns that the dead continue to exist in the memory of the living.

The Black Stallion (1979)

118 minutes; Rated G; available on Amazon.

After a young boy named Alec and a horse are washed up on a deserted island from a shipwreck that killed Alec’s father, the orphaned boy and the animal soon form an inseparable bond. The pair are rescued and Alec becomes determined to turn “The Black” into a racehorse with the help of a grizzled old trainer. Alec’s connection with the horse brings him solace, helping him deal with his grief for his father.

Fly Away Home (1996)

107 minutes; Rated PG; available on Amazon.

After her mother dies in a car crash, 13-year-old Amy (played by a young Anna Paquin) is sent from New Zealand to Canada to live with her father. She adopts a nest of abandoned goose eggs, and when they hatch she finds herself in charge of teaching the goslings survival skills — including how to fly south for the winter. In the process of taking on the mother role for the goslings, Amy is able to grieve for her own mother. Please note: The car crash is shown in the film’s opening sequence.

Ages 12+

Laia Artigas plays Frida, a girl recently orphaned who moves to the country to live with family.

Summer 1993 (2017)

100 minutes (subtitled); available on Amazon.

After her mother’s death, 6-year-old Frida must move from Barcelona to the country to live with her aunt, uncle and younger cousin. The young girl soon struggles with grief and her place in this new family. Often presented from Frida’s viewpoint, with overheard conversations and waist-high camera angles, the film is based on the director’s personal experiences with loss.

A Monster Calls (2016)

128 minutes; Rated PG-13; available on Amazon.

Conor’s mother is gravely ill, and the 13-year-old struggles with anger, sadness, guilt and anticipatory grief. To cope with all the overwhelming emotions, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) conjures a monster who offers up three fables and then demands one from him — it must be his ultimate truth. MacDougall gives an authentic performance as a boy learning to face the truth, even though it is contradictory and complex. Please note: There is some destruction of property, physical bullying and verbal abuse.

When Marnie Was There (2014)

103 minutes; Rated PG; available on HBO Max.

In this feature from Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, Anna is sent by her foster mother to visit relatives at the seaside for fresh air after having an asthma attack. Once there, she ventures into an abandoned mansion and discovers a new friend, Marnie, who may or may not be the ghost of her grandmother. Anna is then forced to confront feelings she has been avoiding about the loss of her family.

The Farewell (2019)

98 minutes (subtitled); Rated PG; available on Amazon.

The matriarch of a family in China is diagnosed with terminal cancer, but no one has told her. The family comes together one last time under the guise of a large wedding, but it’s really to say goodbye. The film, based on the writer and director Lula Wang’s personal story, shows profound cultural differences in attitudes about death and grieving.

Complete Article HERE!

Saving a Cactus, and Its Prickly Owner

I didn’t think I’d ever get over the loss of my best friend. Then her daughter came to live with me.

By Gayle Abrams

“Will you accept a new tenant and a puppy?” Ceece texted.

A pretty, smart blonde with a lean, athletic build and a degree in finance, Ceece was the kind of 23-year-old you might hate, since she seemed a little too blessed. Unless you knew the truth.

“Why does the dog need to come?” my husband asked.

“It’s a therapy dog,” I explained. “She got him when Barb died.”

Barb, Ceece’s mom, was my best friend. We met when I was Ceece’s age, working in the publicity department of Bantam Books.

It was the worst time of my life. My father had gone to jail, I was sick with an eating disorder and I’d just lost my mom. I was cold and angry and a liar. Most people would have given up on me. Not Barb. At 6 feet tall, she towered over my 5-foot-2 self, fixed her piercing blue eyes on my hazel ones, and told me she really wanted to be my friend, but there were certain rules I had to follow for that to happen. The main one was I had to always tell her the truth.

For almost three decades after that, while she rose in the publishing world in New York and I built a TV career in Los Angeles, we maintained a long-distance friendship based on this pledge of honesty and trust. We could and did tell each other everything, first writing epic letters, then epic emails. My husband once walked in and stared at the pages of writing on my screen and asked if I was writing a screenplay. “No,” I said. “It’s a letter to Barb.”

We ended up celebrating all our monumental milestones together. We got married the same year and joked that we had married the same man. Both our husbands shared an unflappable temperament and, weirdly, both were managers at consumer banks. We bought similar first houses: Barb’s was an adorable 19th-century farmhouse, mine an adorable 1920s Spanish style.

Then we both bought the same second house, newer and in a more kid-friendly location, when the first one turned out to be totally impractical. We both got pregnant and had a baby the same year. We both ended up having two kids, a boy and a girl, and we would both tell you we couldn’t have survived the dark days when they were little without our amazing “Super Dad” men. Whatever it was we were going through, we were there for each other, and it helped that so often we were going through the same things. But if I had to name the greatest thing Barb gave me, it was that she believed in me, even when I couldn’t believe in myself.

In Her Words: Where women rule the headlines.

Then one day she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to a year to live. When she made it past one year, I thought we were home free. Until suddenly, she was gone. For months after, I’d wake up in the middle of the night sobbing. I’d lost my oar and my rudder, the person who had taught me unconditional love.

In February 2019, my daughter was in college, my son had just moved out, and I was mere days into my new life as an empty-nester when Ceece texted. She’d gotten a job offer in Los Angeles. Could she stay with us? Of course I said yes.

Weeks later, after she’d spent $1,500 to ship her car, all her stuff and a giant 10-foot cactus out West, she arrived to find out the position she’d been offered was not guaranteed. The woman who hired her said her boss wanted two candidates to choose from.

“What if I don’t get the job?” she asked me, her eyes blinking back terror.

If I told you she didn’t get the job, the cactus arrived brown and droopy and the groomer found a lump under her dog’s fur, maybe you’d think I was being dramatic. But that’s what happened.

“It’s not cancer,” I said, waving the idea away with my hand.

“Actually, the vet said it could be cancer,” she told me. “He’s going to take it off.”

Ceece seemed cold and angry, shutting me out. It wasn’t lost on me that I was the same way at her age after l’d lost my mother, and that her mother was the one who had saved me. It was also a lot of pressure. I worried she was not OK, but I didn’t know how to help.

Ceece sent out resumes, watered her cactus and took her dog in for surgery. Sometimes she didn’t come out of her room all day.

Then came the time we went for a walk around Lake Hollywood. It was a perfect Los Angeles day, after the rain, crisp air, a turquoise blue sky. Suddenly the Hollywood sign came into view.

“The first time your mom came to L.A., I took her to see the sign,” I told her. “You know how she was. Loved celebrities. Called them ‘stars.’”

“She was a great person,” I said. “She changed my life.”

At first Ceece rolled her eyes. Then she asked me to tell her about her mom. So I did. After that day we explored the city together. We went to the farmers’ market, the county museum, Home Goods to shop for throw pillows. I learned she really loved plants, purses and quesadillas. Sometimes, we laughed really hard. Sometimes, we cried. As it turned out, I didn’t need to save her after all. She just needed a friend. So did I, since I’d lost the best one I’d ever had.

The production company ended up not liking the candidate they hired and asked Ceece if she was still open to the job. When she moved across town to her own apartment six months later, I was heartbroken. But I knew how to handle it. After all, her mother had taught me how to have a long-distance friendship. And both the dog and the cactus lived.

Complete Article HERE!

What to read when you’re grieving a loved one

By Yvonne Abraham

I am a great grief compartmentalizer. I can put sadness into a box or write about it, pretending to be a detached expert. My therapist tells me I don’t feel it, though. She claims I have one button for all emotions, and that by turning off the grief, I also prevent myself from experiencing joy, hope, and excitement. You can’t get the good without the bad, she claims. I hate that.

There are a zillion wonderful books about loss, but none of them helped me feel. But a script did it. It unstuck the button. “Fleabag: The Scriptures,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s compilation of scripts from the show, includes pages of dialogue showing her character’s compartmentalized grief, which was all too familiar. On page 331, in a flashback, Fleabag considers the loss of her mother, and tells her best friend, ”I don’t know what to do with it —” “With what?” the friend, Boo, asks. “With all the love I have for her. I don’t know … where to — put it now.” Reading that, I was able to see all the love for my late mom that has been following me for years, with nowhere to go. I’m learning to give it to others. “I’ll take it,” Boo offers Fleabag. “No, I’m serious. It sounds lovely.”


Letters for life

The opening words of Donald Hall’s “Letter After a Year,” addressed to his late wife and fellow poet Jane Kenyon, are: “Here’s a story I never told you.”

Hall proceeds to describe a time, long before he met Kenyon, when he discovered letters in the attic of a rented house that a previous tenant had written to a lover who had died in a plane crash. He recalls his puzzlement back then: “She’s writing to somebody dead?”

But Hall came to understand, and act on, that same impulse after Kenyon died at 47. The proof of that is “Without,” a 1998 collection of poems (many of them with the word “Letter’’ in the title) that falls somewhere between conversation and correspondence. These poems are written about and to Kenyon, who succumbed to leukemia in 1995 on the New Hampshire farm where she and Hall lived.

Now, it would be a mistake to read “Without’’ in the expectation of bromidic uplift. Hall was too honest a poet — and too faithful a husband — for that. There is overwhelming pain in these pages, numerous times when, in Hall’s words, “grief’s repeated particles suffuse the air.” In “Letter in the New Year,” Hall writes to Kenyon that “this new year is offensive because it will not contain you.” For him, grieving is not a linear process but a flailing struggle to stay afloat amid a flood.

Yet within the quasi-epistolary structure of “Without” can be discerned the hope that, on some indefinable level, a relationship is not over so long as one partner lives. Hall updates Kenyon on the doings of children, grandchildren, and friends; he tells her about watching the Red Sox; he describes the springtime arrival of goldfinches and the emergence of daffodils on the hillside. And he evokes the numberless little moments that made up their life together, from shopping to lovemaking to holiday rituals like Kenyon’s habit of opening the daily Advent calendar window and then reading the Gospels. “Ordinary days were best, when we worked over poems in our separate rooms,” Hall tells Kenyon.

To be “without,” obviously, is a fate that befalls many of us. What Hall’s poems suggest is that memory, and perhaps an untold story or two, can help sustain just enough “with” to pull us through.


Walking with grief

Grief of any kind obeys a logic all its own. But a parent’s grief over the loss of a child must defy logic altogether. “Because how can one articulate logical, coherent, human speech when the foundations of logic and proper order, the so-called natural order, the order whereby parents should not mourn their children — have foundered?”

So writes the Israeli author David Grossman, who lost his own son in Israel’s Second Lebanon War in 2006. Some five years after that shattering event, Grossman, in keeping with this observation, corralled the materials of his own mourning not into a coolly coherent memoir but into a kind of haunting parable.

A grieving man gets up from dinner one night and sets out to walk around his village in ever-widening circles. He has left behind normal life to search for his departed son, to seek out an elusive place described only as “there,” to trace on the land his own spiraling itinerary of loss and boundless yearning. The man begins his walk alone but is quickly joined by others who have also lost children, each one inevitably trapped within a kind of private exile yet now, suddenly, walking together.

Narrated in spare, poetic language, “Falling Out of Time” is a story of reckoning and reclamation — of learning to live with, and without, the dead. The novel, which was recently adapted by composer Osvaldo Golijov into a tone poem of the same name, also constitutes its own act of co-walking with the grieving, a way of broadening outward from sharp solitude of private sorrow. Finally, it is a meditation on the working through of a wild, impossible grief until the point that, as Grossman writes, “there is breath inside the pain.”


Keep moving forward

“It’s okay. She’s a pretty cool customer.”

That’s what a social worker says to a doctor who’s wondering how to tell Joan Didion that the heart attack suffered barely an hour ago by her husband, the novelist John Gregory Dunne, had proven fatal.

Anyone who knows the chill, clipped control found in Didion’s novels and essays realizes how well “cool customer” describes her as a writer. How it does and doesn’t apply to her as a grieving widow is the burden of “The Year of Magical Thinking.” It won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction, but to think of so searching and personal a work in terms of something as transitory as a literary prize doesn’t so much miss the point as ignore it.

The point is that neither grief nor life stops. It’s not just the consequences of Dunne’s death that Didion writes about but also dire health crises affecting their daughter, Quintana, over the same period of time. To lose one’s spouse and then possibly one’s only child? The Old Testament may offer the closest literary counterpart: the Book of Job. That “Magical Thinking” and its author merit the comparison is no small compliment to Didion as writer and human being both.


Complete Article HERE!

Anxiety Is a Stage of Grief You May Not Recognize

By Seth J. Gillihan, PhD

You’ve probably heard of the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, grief is a complex and personal experience, and there are many aspects of it that don’t fit neatly into this model.

One common, but often unrecognized, grief response is feelings of tremendous anxiety. Some individuals may be aware that they’re feeling anxious; for others, it’s hard to identify specific emotions that make up their overwhelming pain.

Grief-related anxiety is often rooted in our concerns about how we will cope. When we experience a significant loss, it can feel like our world is falling apart around us, and we wonder whether we’ll fall apart, too—especially if we’re grieving a loved one whose support we depended on in exactly these kinds of situations.

We might also have counted on a person in practical ways, and wonder whether we can shoulder the increase in responsibilities. For example, the untimely death of a spouse might require a person to adjust to the demands of being a single parent. When we’re focused on our sadness and loss, it might be hard to realize that we’re afraid, too.

It’s disorienting when we lose someone or something that’s integral to our lives, and it can trigger the fear of what else we might lose. The death of a parent, for example, might trigger worry about losing the other parent, or one’s spouse. For many people, the fear is less specific but equally powerful—more a vague sense of threat and unease.

Anxiety can also come from the stress on our minds and bodies, which leads to a state of high alert as our fight-or-flight system is stuck in the “on” position. You might be exhausted but unable to let go of tension—“tired and wired”—which can show up as trouble sleeping and feeling constantly on edge.

Keep in mind that grief can follow many experiences of loss, not just death. We can grieve the loss of a career, and feel anxiety about our unknown financial future. We can grieve the loss of health, and worry about further decline. We can grieve the loss of a relationship, with anxiety about ending up alone.

Part of what we grieve following a loss is the illusion that anything is permanent. It’s like an earthquake—the ground that normally seems so solid suddenly shakes and shifts. What’s left is a different reality than we knew before. The terrifying realization that nothing lasts forever can shake our sense of safety and security.

If you’ve experienced anxiety as part of grief, here are some suggestions that may help you cope:

  • Reach out to those around you. No matter what kind of loss you’ve experienced, stay connected to the important people in your life. Few things are more grounding than meaningful relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for ongoing support—it takes time to grieve, and there’s no expiration date on the comfort of family and close friends. Seek out the support you need as you adjust to your altered world.
  • Give yourself time to heal. In a similar way, allow yourself the time needed to process what has happened to you. Beware of the idea that you need to “get back to normal”—your world has changed, and it takes time to adjust to those changes. Don’t be surprised if the grief comes in waves, or is different from day to day. You might have reactions to the anniversary of your loss, as well.
  • Reduce optional stress. Part of healing is treating yourself gently while you’re grieving. It is probably not a good time to take on difficult new projects or challenges. This is not to say that you’re weak, but rather to direct your strength wisely. Also look for opportunities to process stress and loss in ways that work for you—for example, meditative practices, exercise, massage, or walks with a friend.
  • Make space for whatever you’re feeling. There’s no wrong way to grieve. Sometimes we suppress our feelings because we don’t understand them, or we’re scared of them, or in some way we think we don’t deserve to have them. Whatever you’re experiencing is OK, whether it’s sadness, anxiety, a feeling you can’t describe, or any other aspect of grief.

Complete Article HERE!

11 Salves for Holiday Grief in the Time of COVID.

By Karuna Duval, LICSW

Grief during the holidays is tough enough.

Now, let’s pile on a pandemic for the past year, and you have an even more difficult holiday season.

Being isolated and disconnected from our usual support systems has been a great hardship for many—most certainly for those who have lost a loved one. As the holidays approach, those who are grieving find themselves further burdened by even more unknowns.

Here are some suggestions and perspectives to consider for this holiday season if you are grieving or if you know someone who is grieving.

A Holiday in a box

If you can’t get together with loved ones because you are not traveling or they are not traveling, put together a “Thanksgiving in a box” or “Christmas in a box” or “Chanukah in a box” or “Kwanza in a box” or “(insert your holiday) in a box.” Let this serve as a sort of care package with more than just gifts. Include things like games, puzzles, poems, books, sweets, and other things that you may have shared if you were together.

Easy meals

If you choose to be alone this holiday (which is perfectly fine), opt for a TV dinner or preprepared meal. Many are tasty and include the traditional holiday foods. This also reduces stress in prep and cleanup. Or have your meal delivered. So many stores and restaurants are increasing their deliveries and offering yummy options for the holidays.

Forgo the “have-tos”

Often, the holidays are propelled by the traditions we have, which in and of themselves are not bad. However, if you don’t feel like putting up a tree or lights, or making certain foods, even though you have done that for years with your deceased family member, there is no obligation to do so. Sometimes other family members may be challenged by this; kids may want the traditions to be the same (even if they aren’t going to be around this year). The only obligation you have is to yourself. Do what you want to do this year.

Listen to your wants

If you want a smaller scale (or larger scale) decorated home this year, that’s fine. One woman I know vowed not to have any decorations this year. She and her deceased husband normally put out lots of decorations, but she didn’t have the energy for that now. However, when she found herself at a local big-box store, she was inspired to buy lights. She heard within herself, “Bring light in this year.” At another store, she was drawn to a small living tree, which she plans to plant in her garden after the holiday. She listened to herself. Even though she had thought she wasn’t going to decorate at all, that inner voice offered something different and something meaningful for her this year.

Conserve your energy

What can you make happen with the energy, time, and resources you have? And what is just not possible? The holidays often compel us to extend ourselves beyond our means, both financially and energetically. This could fit into the “have-tos” section as well. Gifts, especially, are not the purpose of the holidays—connection is. If you don’t have the energy and time, ask yourself what matters to you now and how can you do what matters with what you have? This is a question many who are grieving ask daily: What matters to me now?

Focus on the long-term

This year, connecting and being together means something different. If we are not with the people we want to be with now because we don’t live together, it is advised to remain separated. Especially for those who are older or already compromised in some way, don’t risk the unknown and long-term effects of this illness for short-term experience. The most serious long-term effects are hospitalization and death. Conserve your energy and time by connecting virtually. If you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to gather outside. Again, take the proper precautions. Remember that in the long-term, we will be able to be together again. Someone said, “A large gathering this holiday is not worth a small funeral later.”

Allow yourself to change your mind

Even if you want to do something with others, it’s okay to change your mind, even at the last minute. It is helpful to prepare others for this too. Tell them, “I need to warn you that I may need to change my mind, depending on how I feel.” People who know you and know your situation will understand. This also applies to events you may sign up for online. When you register for an event, check the refund policies.

Sit this one out

Some who are grieving don’t want to be a part of anything related to the holidays this year. This is just fine. While some people (even some close to you) may feel this is not a good thing, you have to decide what is right for you. Sitting out this holiday doesn’t mean you will never celebrate again. It just means for right now, you need to be with you, figure out what you want, watch or listen to what you want, eat the food you want, cry when you need, sleep when you need, and talk to who you want to (or not). Remember, you are the boss of you.

Celebrate when you can

For some, celebrating on the actual holiday is not possible or even desired. Some folks gather (even virtually) before the holiday or after it. One person said they celebrate the holidays in the summer when everyone can make it. It’s too late for that this year, but maybe you’ll choose that next year, after we, hopefully, can gather again. Getting together in the summer will allow for an even sweeter celebration.

Pulling inward

As we go into the darkest time of the year, our natural inclination is to hibernate. For those who are grieving, this can be a greater pull. With the holidays being so different than they ever have been, it seems like we have an even better reason to pull inward. We can shift our focus from outside ourselves to within ourselves, from doing to being—being with ourselves, being with others (mostly virtually), and being with what is, right now.

Be in the present

This year, we have experienced how things can change day-to-day. Being present for the experiences right now will support you in your grief. Being present to how you feel can help you to make choices about what you want and how you want your life to be. Worrying about what is out of your control expends energy that could otherwise be used for what you can control. Being present allows you to ask, “What is in my control now?” When we discover what is in our control, we find we have more choices. When we focus on what is out of our control, we find fewer choices and feel more helpless.

If you need additional assistance as you are grieving in this time, there are many folks who can help and support you. Local hospice organizations often have resources, especially during the holidays. There are many websites that offer written, video, and even live/Zoom events with information and support. If you find yourself struggling and need immediate assistance, call 911 or your local emergency mental health services for support.

Complete Article HERE!