Archives for December 2012

Love expressed; love remembered.

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Thanks, Elaine!

Solstice Blessings: A Family Ritual of Remembrance and Love
Posted on December 18, 2012

On the shortest day of 2010 when my sons were home to celebrate the holidays, I took a clipper and cloth bag on my morning forest walk and gathered evergreen boughs and pinecones. I picked up small chunks of shale and granite and some acorns, too. At the house, I emptied my bag on the dining room table next to a few candles and a photo of my husband Vic who had died 18 months before. Then I waited.

“What are we doing with this stuff?” my son David asked as he inspected my treasure.

“I thought you guys might build an altar with me, maybe light a few candles.” I felt shy, afraid they would think my idea was silly or sentimental, but I needed to balance the grief I felt with Christmas coming.

“Let’s do it,” David said with his big hearted enthusiasm.

He called his brother Anthony while I laid a red cloth on a cabinet near the front door. Taking turns, we added pine and spruce branches and placed candles in front of the greens. We placed stones and then scattered pinecones and acorns, arranging things just so.

“And this?” Anthony asked, picking up the photo of his dad. I’d chosen a photo of Vic peering out from foliage. I found it in the back of his desk the Christmas after he died. It was the last print in a packet of promotion headshots that I had taken eight years before for Vic’s second book. Tired of posing, he slipped beneath the red maple branches and peered out at me.

“Let’s put the photo behind the evergreens,” I said, “so we have to pay attention to notice it. It will be here but not easily visible, just the way your dad is in our lives now. Is that OK with you?”

“Of course,” they said, so I tucked the picture behind the evergreen boughs. From the photo, Vic’s eyes gazed out at the three of us, the fourth member of our family circle watching from the other side.

“Let’s say what we want to release and what we hope for this coming year,” I suggested. “Or you could just light a candle and not say anything.” I still wanted to give them a way out.

Anthony went first, silently lighting a candle and wiping his eyes with his shirtsleeve. David was next, carefully describing what he wanted to leave behind and add to his life before lighting his candle. Anthony thought better of his silence and spoke his heart’s desire before he lit a second candle.

“It’s your turn, Mom,” David said. I took a slow breath and lit my candle.

“Fewer tears. More joy,” I prayed.

We repeated our Solstice Ritual of Remembrance in 2011. This year, I’ll add a Rumi poem that helps me feel connected with my beloved who is far away.

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
From my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.

For more lovely missives about life, love, loss, visit

The quiet sense of something lost

Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas eve.

The yule-log sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Be Patient Toward All that is Unsolved …

This is my “go to” quote when my heart is heavy or
I’m puzzling through something:

Be patient toward all that
is unsolved in your heart. And
try to love the questions themselves.
Do not seek answers that cannot
be given you because you would
not be able to live them. And
the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps
you will then gradually, without
noticing it, live along some
distant day into the answer.

-Rainer Maria Rilke


Many of us have heard the last 3 lines of this writing by Goethe on Commitment; here’s a longer thought about it:

By Goethe

Until one is committed,
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Always ineffectiveness.
Concerning acts of initiative (and creation)
There is one elementary truth
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
And splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself
The Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings.
And material assistance
Which no man could have dreamt
Would come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.

Tears and Grief

“I am not afraid of your tears. They demonstrate to me that you understand what I lost.
Tom Zuba, quote from In Death Is the Secret of Life: A Tribute Journal by Lynne McCollum Staley

Unresolved Issues

“When unresolved issues are writing our life story, we are not our own autobiographers; we are merely recorders of how the past continues, often without our awareness, to intrude upon our present experience and shape our future directions.” – Daniel Siegel, MD

Grief Defined

“Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings when someone we love dies. Think of grief as the container. It holds all of your thoughts feelings, and images of your experience when you are bereaved. Grief is the internal meaning given to the experience of loss.”
– Alan Wolfelt, PhD, Understanding Your Grief

Visit amazon for a list of more than 20 books written by Dr. Wolfelt. Visit his Website to learn about his work at Center for Loss in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Holidays and Loss

There are a number of people who share advice about living with loss during the holidays. (Dr. Alan Wolfelt has a book called Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season.)

I’ve created my own list of advice; the bottom-line message? YOU get to establish the terms of engagement …

If the following advice is useful, great. If not, please disregard and create your OWN list!

Lynne’s advice for navigating the holidays after an experience of loss or during a life transition experience that is happening during the holiday season:

~ Plan ahead.
~ Be human. (That means allow yourself to feel what you feel.)
~ Ask for help.
~ Eliminate, scale back or create new traditions. (or not!)
~ Avoid any unhealthy, short-term fixes that temporarily make you feel better.
~Be good to yourself. Practice extreme self-care.
~ Keep good company.
~ Memorialize your loved one. Create a ritual of remembrance.
~ Tell stories. Remember.

Visit the Life After Loss Facebook Page:

Memoir re: Loss

When my dear friend, Trici, died, I read everything I could on the subject of grief and loss. I was surprised that a MEMOIR, entitled In The Unlikely Event of a Water Landing: A Geography of Grief, was the book that first “spoke” to me. Christopher Noel’s candor about the death of his fiance’ and his use of language to describe the texture of grief helped me feel that someone else in the world “got it” ~ someone understood how loss changes you.

Do you have a Memoir you would recommend that helped you feel less alone when you experienced the death of someone precious? Please share in the Comments ~

(Noel’s book is out of print but may be found on a used book site. I found it at my public library.)

Blessings and thanks for sharing, Lynne

For Grief: A Blessing by John O’Donohue

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto that black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed,
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

To Bless the Space Between Us:
A Book of Blessings

By John O’Donohue