What Now?

From Ann Patchett‘s “What Now?“~
“What now? is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now? can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open, that we may well do more than anyone expected of us, that at every point in our development we are still striving to grow. There’s a time in our lives when we crave the answers. It seems terrifying not to know what’s coming next. But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices, and What now? represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life. It’s up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding…

If you’re trying to find out what’s coming next, turn off everything you own that has an OFF switch and listen. Make up some plans and change them. Identify your heart’s truest desire and don’t change that for anything. Be proud of yourself for the work you’ve done.”

This is an excerpt from a commencement speech that author Ann Patchett gave at her alma mater ~ Sarah Lawrence College. But as I read this less-than-a hundred-pages book, I heard a message for anyone who is puzzling through what life-after-loss looks like …


“Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out. ” – Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Stunned By Grief

“What will you choose? Devastating loss is a formidable challenge ~ and while you may be temporarily tempted to give in to victimhood, you will not get well by surrendering to despair.

Exercise your strength, consciously make a choice, and do something. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim.”

Judy Brizendine, Stunned By Grief: Remapping Your Life when Loss Changes Everything

Heart of Forgiveness

This … from Heart of Forgiveness by Madeline Ko-I Bastis may help set things right as the New Year begins:

“For all the harm you have done me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive you … As I wish myself to be happy, as I wish for my heart to be filled with peace, so I wish your heart to be filled with peace. I wish you well.”

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:

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

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Here is another lovely missive that can be shared at a holiday table where someone precious is absent:

“For troubles that shape and sharpen our patience,
For doubts that let faith moments shine,
And for confusions that keep our lives from being rigid.
For sufferings that help us share another’s grief,
For fears that mark real terror in the world,
And for pains that open our eyes to joy.
For sorrows that join our hands to hope
And for loneliness that leads to the heart of God.
For all these gifts by which we have become more human, we give thanks.
Let our thanks reach out and embrace
The daily, small ingratitudes of our lives.”
– Maren C Tirabassi

Some Friends Know How to Show Up …

“We found that our circle of friends shifted … We were surprised and disappointed that people we thought were good friends became distant, uneasy, and seemed unable to help us. Others who were casual acquaintances became suddenly close, sustainers of life for us. Grief changes the rules, and sometimes rearranges the combinations.”
– Martha Whitmore Hickman, Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief

I have heard from many clients that friends and family often don’t know how to show up in their lives after a loss experience. It is often true that the griever becomes the model for how to do just that with friends and family; they show up in ways they were met with compassion or in ways they WISH they had been supported.

This little book has an entry for each day of the year. A quote tops each page followed by a missive written by Martha Whitmore Hickman. The quotes are wonderful “prompts” for journal writing OR Ms. Hickman has authored a companion journal as a guide.

Blessings ~ Lynne

Support for a friend who is grieving

It can be difficult to know how to help a friend who is grieving. People who have experienced a death of someone precious are often the best resources for knowing what to say or do (and what NOT to say or do). Lynn Kelly wrote a book entitled “Don’t Ask for the Dead Man’s Golf Clubs: What to Do and Say When a Friend Loses a Loved One”. It’s out of print so check your public library or find the link on amazon that will point you to a copy via a used book source.