Monday, November 29, 2010

Room For Change: Reviving Your Holidays

As a widow , I continually try to be positive in the changes and growth that have emerged in my widowhood.   Attending bereavement sessions around the holidays, I hear and see the word, "surviving".

Surviving to me connotes, a time of languish, a sacrifice and an insurmountable endurance.  Most of us experiencing loss have felt fleeting moments of such, but then again we may find a single bright moment that leads the way to hope and renewal and even revival on this grief journey.

Holidays not only suggest shopping as with birthdays, Hanukkah and Christmas, but also include decorating, baking and traditional activities.  Weaving new into old and old into new is what our life journey entails.  How can you weave yours with what treasured memories and traditions speak to you and your loved ones?

Shopping:  Keep it simple.  Maybe this is a year that you exchange gift certificates only and plan a family trip or excursion after the holiday.   Maybe this is a time when you ask others to do the shopping for you.  Be kind to yourself.  Relish holidays as a time of energy conservation and renewal rather than the have to's of past years.

Gifting of memories:  I am not the best seamstress but I have friends that are talented in that arena.  They could create a small quilt, a Christmas tree skirt, a table runner or even holiday place mats from your loved ones old clothes.  It is a way of purposeful renewal and memory. Men's ties can be especially beautiful in a tree skirt as their shape flares out.  Mom's old costume jewelry can be hot glued to inexpensive picture frames for gifts to family members and even used to adorn a Styrofoam ball and hung with a ribbon from the tree.  Memories will remain.  Using items gives them renewal and a sense of moving forward with honor.

Barter:  This word may appear harsh but often in grief we know what we have in the way of items and "stuff" but don't know how to relinquish and to whom.  Think about trading or bartering your  extra tools for " x number " of handyman hours.  Think about trading your lawnmower for lawn care for a year or your snow plow for plowing.  Relinquishing an item does not mean it cannot come back into your space, but it can allow space for other things to come in and other activities that may be burdensome to you now.  Remember holidays are about giving and giving to yourself is just as important as giving to others.

Decorating:  This may be a year when the tree gets a little smaller or all the decorations are not put up.  This may be a year when you ask a friend to adorn a wreath for you and you go on a citywide light walk instead of putting your lights up.  This may be a year, when you are not the " hostess with the mostess" and visit someone else or even go on a cruise.  My first year of widowhood I picked out a fresh palette of inexpensive ornaments for my tree.  My first year of widowhood I did not bake and decorate the gingerbread houses, my daughter did.  My first year of widowhood I did not stay home.  Did it help?  I do not remember, but it did help me realize that everything did not have to be the same way in order to cushion the void I was experiencing.

Aromas and Baking: The holiday season conjures up sights and sounds and smells.   What speaks to you?  What smells remind you of great childhood memories?  What supports you?  If you love the smell of evergreens, buy yourself a beautiful soy candle or bring in some pine cones seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg.  My grandmother's recipe for poppy seed strudel was a tradition and my favorite.  My father, now deceased and I loved it.  Grandma has also passed away but her recipe and her handwriting of the recipe linger.  Have a friend , who wants to do something special for you, make a favorite recipe.  Not only will you be nurtured with  food but also memories.  Putting spices into a crock pot to simmer, can create another avenue of creating memories.  Add what spices or fruit that appeals to you now.

Holiday Cards: If someone sent me a card, I felt guilty that I did not send them one.  I was too exhausted and "low" to respond during my first years of widowhood. I did respond in another way.  The cards piled up during the holidays.  Beginning January 1st, I pulled one from the basket each day and said a prayer for that family and gratitude for their outreach. In grief, in life, it all takes time.  Give yourself time to allow for your unique gifts to unfold. (  I have even thought about sending Valentine cards instead, but never have done it.  Let me know if that fits the bill for you!)

Outreach to Others:  I found that giving to strangers during the holidays, sparked a gratitude that was hard to access in my loss.  I envisioned the foster sisters that would open the gifts I sent. Receiving a photo and thank you note a month later I was not far off!  I remembered the Christmas I received my Polly Play Pal doll , when everyone told me the large gift was an ironing board for my mom and hoped that the burlap bag with my untidy red yarn embroidery would keep them in wonderment for a while. I remembered the first warm reversible ski jacket I got as a gift and even remember the pattern and hoped that what I picked out for the Angel Tree family would be as warming and fun.

Reviving your holidays, bringing a little something new to the old, is what makes other beautiful traditions awaken.  Remembering yourself, by placing yourself in a place of support is all that is required. Remember the magic and weave a small bit of change into your celebrations.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Room For Change: " Waiting" or "Wanting to Get Out" Rooms

Perhaps it is cloudy or dreary days that brings out a critical perspective that lays dormant for some command performance. Today waiting rooms crawl to the surface of this damp and inclement weather.

Waiting Rooms.   Just the sound of "Wait" conjures up the sense of not moving forward.  "Wait" is  a loss of momentum.   So what benefits  can waiting rooms fulfill for those in health care and other industry services?   Are they simply " Wanting to Get Out" Rooms instead?

Waiting rooms, are like your front door, as they speak of your nature and your mindset of the day.
Waiting rooms, are like a incubator, for mental attitude to swell or mind lists to be congealed.
Waiting rooms , are like a hand written invitation, to an upcoming event and the expectations associated with it.

Do waiting rooms fulfill your needs? Are your service providers doing you a service in their waiting rooms?  How are you intuitively reacting to the setting.

After numerous medical waiting rooms attended by myself and my husband in his care during his terminal illness I became a big critic of waiting rooms without realizing it.  My impatience in the medical process and time I felt was wasted before and after our actual appointments lead me dreading another appointment date in most facilities or offices.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute was the first one to "speak" to me of compassion and comfort while retaining a business and service attitude of efficiency and individualization.  Their waiting rooms fulfilled my needs.

What does the physical "room" exhibit?

Not only is visual pleasure comforting for the patient/client but for the staff.  It sets the stage for what is to come.  Physical elements can include seating, lighting, privacy elements, accessibility to water or beverages, aromas, cleanliness and reading material.  Physical also includes how the flow of clients in and out proceeds and how those "waiting" are  integrated within  the process.  Physical can include how your voice or those of the staff travels within these walls and what adorns the walls if anything.

My pet peeves include:

Dirty upholstery or seating surfaces
Lack of lighting or sources of lighting
Outdated reading material and neglected
Uncomfortable seating or limited seating
Lack of privacy of conversation with staff
Dust laden silk or artificial plants
Left over furniture and accessories from other spaces flung together
Faded pictures or photos adorning the walls
Overstuffed literature for client left unattended and in disarray
Inadequate variety of seating to accommodate different physical abilities

These ten are a fraction of what others may find discomforting within such a space.

Suggestions to consider within such a space could include:

Rocking chairs
Fish tanks
Wall mounted water fountains
Current reading material
Nature DVD and photos
Good and varied lighting as well as natural lighting
Clean surfaces
Beverage station with neat disposal setup
Variety of seating options, i.e. armless and with arms, soft and firm
Variety in shapes and size of seating or side tables.
Availability of blankets for comfort and temperature control
Private screening area as needed for confidential conversation or scheduling
Lack of intense aroma ( neither medicinal nor strong artificial)

Yesterday I visited a new dentist and his office.   Not only did I do a mental checklist of what was pleasing to me, but overviewed what others might find comforting, pleasing and mind setting for their upcoming appointment.

The office included:

Efficient directions to the location and well marked door
Well appointed beverage station and welcoming staff upon entry
Several seating options around large round coffee table laden with current magazines
Chairs that swiveled to adjust client's perspective and comfort
Overhead lighting and ambient lighting
Wall mounted water fountain with backlight
Advertising material on adjacent table for inquiry, not on every surface
Separate area for interviewing new patient
Blankets available during session
Staff conversation at low level
Clean surfaces
Earthy color scheme

Waiting rooms set the stage for what is about to happen and how you, as a client ,will be serviced . More important it initiates the mindset you will bring into the interaction with the provider. Why not maximize all areas ?

Room for change , even in waiting rooms , is possible.  Yesterday, the wait was a pampering time out before my new association was made.  I left , not dreading my possible return, and if I arrived early to my next appointment, the wait.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Room For Change: Wallflower Potential In Loss and Grief

Who knows where inspiration comes from?  Who even knows when it is present.  Riding on the train of trust and basic truths we forge our way. We find someone else's inspiration and dabble of bit of our own into it.  We grasp a bit of their truth and manage to find our own.                                                                                               The image above was created from someone's photograph of an old room, worn and torn up from experiences created and then left to be silenced.  The wallpaper was pulling away from the wall in layers, revealing fresh portraits of paper and then adjacent to them were faded ones hanging on a wispy papery thread.  I saw the beauty in it and its evolution.

What next?  I pulled out for myself  random selections of the image and voila, a new image or inspiration came forward that I can work with.  Add color, maybe. Crop more, perhaps. Simply leave alone, an option as well.

In loss, in grief when all rises to the surface and yet all feelings that are covered up feel vulnerable, look to the potential inside.  Nothing is lost in what you have been. Nothing is needed in what you are right now. Your potential is right now with all images in place.   Dare to dance with what is inside you.  It's there.  Wallflowers are bouquets awaiting discovery.  

Room For Change: Independent or Dependent Retirement Communities?

My world was opened wider this week as I had the priviledge of speaking to    several gatherings of seniors within their community space in their retirement facility.  A few inquiring residents also lead me, after the session, to see their efficiency rooms and offer some consult or advise. It was an honor to be invited.
Design for me is letting the personal touch speak and leaving space open for future objects, ideas and activities to casually find their way into that existing space.
Three of the communities gleamed or highlighted at least one design element of importance to me. Not all of them felt like “ home” to me. We,as a society, are evolving in our concept of home and I hope the residences of our seniors are on the top of the list!
     One community I visited had a very open eating area, mail center and activity center.  Anyone walking into the facility was enveloped in some kind of activity center. Coffee and tea was laid out with colorful flowers surrounding it and antiques of different genres donned the walls and display shelving.   A fireplace created a reading nook within the eating space. The same space was used 3 times per day for resident meals. Physically it felt that forward movement was being made.  Staff was seen in the periphery, in their offices, almost like a second thought with no formal area of reception for residents or guests.
 The second community’s walls were hung with framed  prints of the 1970’s era with washed out blue and pink ghost- like images.  The old wicker furniture with thin calico fabric seating welcomed you into the residence facility which also had sterile hard surfaces of brass, glass and a “retro” Florida feel. Although the facility was overused, outdated and worn out in its appearance , the residents seated in the entry were engaging with one another and guests as they entered. A mid morning snack was being served up  by the manager and other residents were busy searching on a property , participating in scavenger hunt. In the adjacent room several women were playing dominos and others reading the paper.  The activity director was moving about and  volleying the questions about the hunt and the prizes.   As I say in my book, “ All motion is good motion” and this is what was felt.  The community spirit was moving and provided opportunities for additional personal movement and choices.  The once drab environment I had placed myself into was now alive with the energy and interaction of others.  I felt a part of their shared circle.
    A third community carried me in with anticipation of at a personal valet arriving any minute to carry my suitcase onward and then off to prepare me a table for tea. Washed with light  from the roof to floors below and the furnishings were well proportioned to the space and new.  The colors were vivid. Ambient lighting and textural elements lent a very soothing and fresh feeling. The atrium was being actively used for exercise class and yoga followed in another space within a half hour. The residents seemed more reserved with less personal interaction, but they were spread out in a larger facility compared to the second one that I visited. Most of the activities were taking place in gathering rooms located on the second level.  Residents’ rooms required that they take a short walk under a covered outside promenade to reach their them, allowing a short connection with the outdoors as they went to meals or activities.
Comparing the three, where would I l choose to live?  Where would I like to see members of my family engaged and needs tended to?
Number One: Was open and created space for activity
Number Two: Was very dated and worn from daily use  but was lively as the residents were lively and interactive
Number Three: Was open, light and new. Color and nature abounded.
The elements I would consider besides the ones I listed above are the following :
Staff awareness of guests and residents. Highly interactive communication skills.
Floor plan that allows for multiple purpose space use, with areas that can be changed out easily for purpose and activity.
Nesting areas within community space for individuals to seek a private space outside their own room.  This can encompass outside seating or viewing areas.
Light, both natural and artificial and  textural interest and color
Clean setting
 Furnishings that are comfortable and easily cleaned
Nature, including trees, flowers, gardens and water feature... patio or outside space for everyone.
 Allowance of personalization in private rooms. Color choice for rooms especially walls. Many facilities will not permit the residents to paint.  Why not have facility staff be required to do it as an additional fee? Paint is the easiest to redo and least expensive. ( Think of the cost these residents pay each month for their units to the cost of paint and labor with move in and move out.)
Other suggestions I could envision:
Built in shelving units or recessed. There would be no need to have shelving into the rooms and chance of bookcases or shelving toppling over..  It would provide for more floor space for mobility.   Adjustable shelving for TV unit could be included in such a unit as well as recessed desk area for computer or other needs.
Option on some eating arrangements. Possibly breakfast basket delivered to room 2 days per week. Somewhat like a B and B, so that residents did not have to get dressed every morning to go down to eat. ( The rules of do’s and don’ts can become rattling for some with  the sense of losing most independent choices.)
So if I could NOT change anything ( and you know I would not be able to stop myself from moving things around or cleaning it up!!! ) I would place myself within the second community , where people interacted and were individually recognized,where staff was part of the daily flow and not behind the scenes and unseen.
Next I would form a committee from the resident pool to assist in updating their community.  They could donate furniture or artwork.  They could help clean. They could participate in tending to a community garden.  When I asked the first community of residents, what was the hardest part of moving into a independent retirement community, one woman stated that is was being bored.She continued by saying that everything is done for them so there is nothing to do on a daily basis.   Why not have help setting tables? or creating some fresh flower arrangements?  If I see any more dusty silk plants and flowers in these facilities I will do something drastic! Why not have a thrift store of household items that the residents donate and service with funding going to facility improvements, guest speakers or other activities.
Yes, there are ways to make our seasoned change to retirement communities easier and more fulfilling.  Think about how you would like to live when you become a part of this population.
When you visit such a community offer suggestions in writing or ask if they have considered options that you would find helpful for yourself or others.
With the senior population on the rise, now is time to offer some change in perspective within these communities.  Step inside and see what you would like to create your senior home , a haven.
Help your friends and family address these often neglected and hidden thoughts about senior adult living.  There is room for change in all things and senior housing is a great place to make an impact.   
Which community described would you choose if the choice awaited you?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Room for Change: Resting on Your Laurels in Grief

So where do all those timeless sayings come from?  My grandmother’s was.”It all comes out in the wash” and other colorful ones that may be inappropriate  or too graphic to put into black and white in this blog.  Without saying something directly, these sayings created picture perfect references within the mind.
My creative mind loves pictures and “resting on your laurels” came to me today as a busy weekend, not filled with rest, fell to the wayside and a new week begins. The “to do’ list emerged and before the pencil hit the paper, I paused.  Had I not accomplished enough over the weekend? Might this Monday be a Monday of no momentum but rather that of magical moments of rest.
Another saying that surfaced was : All work and no play, makes Johnny a dull boy”  What?  What do either of these have to do with grief, which seemed to be on my mind again?
I had just spent the weekend with 150 widows, some seasoned in their widow walk and others just taking their first steps.  They were enthusiastic to hear creative and inspirational stories about others’ journeys, but most felt their own laborious and lumbering.
During grief, because there is so much unchartered territory to traverse  and new responsibilities to handle, one is often overcome with depression, fatigue, lack of sleep and lack of focus.  It can seem like every waking minute is spent doing and the learning new tasks. The energy required to  evolve into new roles is never ending.
I can remember crying about a potential stain on my kitchen counter, shortly after my spouse died, as it was just one more thing I felt I had to tackle immediately. I was at a breaking point and felt I had lost control of any normalcy.
Place PLAY in your new normalcy.  Place PAMPER in your new normalcy. Place PAUSE in your new normalcy.
Suggestions for placing the above in your new life might include
  • Swinging in the park or on a  front porch swing
  • Blowing bubbles and observing the breeze in action and the rainbow of colors      
               unfolding before your eyes
  • Packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Oreos and going on a picnic
  • Flying a kite with a child or another adult friend( that way someone else can chase   
               after it.)
  • Taking a bubble bath with a new fragrance 
  • Getting a manicure or massage
  • Perusing magazines at the library, then a subscription for yourself
  • Taking an afternoon nap on the sofa or hammock with no phone available
  • Getting a carryout dinner delivered to you and asking a friend to join.Have them bring the dessert!
PLAY, PAMPER AND PAUSE,  your new found friends in your new normalcy,will help to balance and bring  energy and insight into new tasks.Building your new life, requires rest from the sometimes overwhelming unimaginable tasks.  Oh, yes, I almost forgot,” Rome was not built in one day”! You too are an architect of a lasting and beautiful life.  Go get that toga and partake of some pleasures today!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Room for Change: Recreating a Rhythm in Loss

Benjamin Franklin's Schedule

Nature is full of rhythms. Our lives are full of rhythms. The ones closest to us awaken us when we are busy and shake us up when they take on a different pulse. Our heart rate may soar and our respiration accompany it. Our eyes see some pending emergency and our body races to respond to it with adrenaline and action.  
In loss and grief we are our bodies are often working on this edge of heightened awareness and activity.  Our bodies and mind coordinate to move us down the road and accommodate the change in our routine, schedule or outlook.

As time passes however our bodies need renewal.  Just as I have written about in my book , Room for Change, some things about change have been hard for me personally.  De cluttering ( or Destacking as it is) and now setting a schedule for myself.

My schedule has been a non schedule , with the freedom of time in my widowhood and empty nest phase of my life, very open.  Much of my time is "free" with non scheduled activities. That has proven a blessing and a curse for my personality.  Creativity may abound in me, but I may start too many projects at once. Flexibility may arise as well, but I feel there are no "have to's " in my loss. Accountability may be sacrificed as well.  The accountability is to myself as well as others.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule is shown here, with it's simple yet profound rhythm.  In loss, if we can find a rhythm that supports us in our changes, time will certainly be full in both growth and nurturing of our body and mind.

As I write this , I am sitting on my sofa with my dog at my side procrastinating about my body's need to hit the gym or sidewalk this morning.  In loss, scheduling time for yourself can be a new found activity. Schedule it in your day. Create a rhythm that takes you places within and outside yourself.
Nurture your nature in loss and recreate a rhythm that supports you today.

And one more thing, as Ben himself writes on his daily schedule, "What good have I done today?" Remembering being good to yourself counts as well!  I am getting off the sofa right now, I promise!

                                             Room for Change: Practical Ideas for Reviving After Loss

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Room for Change: Facing Your Change and Value(s)

Recalling what we were before a significant loss is ingrained within us. How often have I said, " I am not strong" and others say "Look what you have done or accomplished within the last 6 years." It will be 6 years this month that my husband died, followed by the passing of two brothers in law and then my father. Change and internal turmoil and chaos were the norm.

In loss and grief we have the chance to re-evaluate how we define ourselves as well as our relationships with others. Your set of friends may change.  The places you frequent may change as well.  Most of the time may be spent at home ands that is why I am such a big advocate of making your home supporting for you. I remember being so mad at "friends" that were not friends after the death of my husband, but then again I try to remember the ones that became closer and  the ones that supported my change especially during my initial volatility.

Your life values may change in loss and what you personally value in life may follow suit. It may feel dark and lonely in the beginning but doors open and sometimes by unexpected strangers that help with your personal change and support.  Be kind to yourself.

Honor your change as you would honor the growth in someone else.  You might be surprised what you have become! (stronger and wiser in the least)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Room for Change: Touching and Handing It Over

This artist's work is not only beautiful but she adds her words in black and white to give us an insight into her ideas and herself. During grief, expression is often dampened by depression, mental and physical fatigue and the consistency of inconsistency. Grief may pull us inward into a spiral of "what ifs'", "if only", "how come?" and" will it ever end "scenarios.

Feeling the need to be needed may also run astray. Our gift of healing touch may seem not needed now if we have been the caretaker of our loved one, but this is the time when others's hugs, others need to nuture us in grief can be a light in the day. The critters in your household may sense your loss as well and this is a time to remember them with your touch.

Pardon the pun, but "handing over" some of your changing responsibilities in grief may feel as if you are losing even more control in your loss. Pass the buck from time to time. Express your desires when the willingness in others arises to lend a helping hand . Remember they are often "clueless" about the changes you are facing as well and may need suggestions from you.

The artist of the hands above also places in her artwork the words, "you are beautiful" and " i have small scars here from art and living." We are all scarred from time to time but heal with touch. We are all beautiful in a patchwork of different colors and gifts. We are all here to give a hand to those in need. Remember to reach out to others as they extend their hand to you.
It's like a handshake and mutually beneficial.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Room for Change: Honoring Yourself

honoring yourself
you honor others
this started the journey

capturing thoughts in
black and white and
momentum builds

pensive posture moves
into action with
webs forming
which to seek?
which to hold onto?

balance is perfect
neither right nor left
neither up nor down
neither highs nor lows
neither black nor white

balance just is
we are just

combining balance within us is perfect
perfect-just as you are

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Room for Change: The Book

Grief allows people, places and circumstances to change. The change not always wanted, the change not always feeling needed.

Loss of my husband and other dreams culminated in a grief recovery book. Finding myself with several losses at one time, buoying myself up was the hardest thing to do. Contemplating myself as ordinary with little to offer and my dreams dismissed , I looked to ease the pain of others to make myself feel better. I now know with the completion of the book, Room for Change,that much of my healing was my self preaching, my reaching out to others for help and having the confidence and sometimes the innocence to keep moving and adapting in the turmoil I felt.

The book is launched today. The book is available here.I was launched into this venture 6 years ago this month with the death of my husband. I wonder what other changes will come my way within the next 6 years? Ready or not, here they come and I am indebted to so many people who listened to my vision and encouraged me.

I am pleased and excited with the reviews that the book is receiving. One funny and revealing review is by Les Morgan of Growth House Inc.

Take a peak at his candor and humor. That is what change and grief are about. Looking at ways to move through the sometimes ridiculous scenarios with grace and lightness.

To all of you that helped my light shine in the darkest days, this is for you.

Please tell me what you feel about the book and what more it could contain or questions you have. I am pleased with the change in me through this project and keep those reviews coming.

Blessings.. Susan

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Room For Change: Unexpected Delivery

Within loss and grief, order and control tend to rise to the top of priorities. Everything is spinning out of control and most things that were familiar are no longer.

It is easier to imagine the future with its neatly tied bow and the pain dispersed back where it needs to be, that is NOT in us.
We create expectations for others to soothe us, we create expectations of a looming doomed existence and we create expectations of ourselves to be strong to overcome this situation.

Yet the real victories come when an expected gift arrives at your doorstep, like a baby bird chirping in your nearby tree.
The real victories come when you enter a room as yourself without the thoughts of "what are they going to think?"
The real victories come in the expected talents that you did not perceive within yourself. Those dormant and unexpected talents often rise to the surface during grief. Why? Maybe they surface because our skin is so transparent and our core exposed. It may not feel good, but unexpected personal gifts can arise.

Surprise! I do not like to write. I have never liked to write, yet it seems as if it keeps coming to the surface. Another surprise!

My first book is in its prelaunch, Room for Change: Practical Ideas for Reviving After Loss. It will be delivered to within a month. Yes, an unexpected delivery, in an expected form. I would rather physically do for others than write, but in my widowhood I have found that doing for yourself is what supports you through grief.

The book will be an expected delivery for others in grief and I know it will provide practical and non threatening ways to make the support they need their own. Of course there is fun in the book and unexpected treasures for grievers to find.

My son-in-law is a professional bagpiper and is present at many celebrations, be they parades or weddings or funerals. Yes, funerals are a celebration of gifts on the horizon. Or as he says as he heads out the door to a funeral, he is there to put the FUN back in FUNeral.

Look for the unexpected deliveries as fun and not futile. Await the unexpected gifts arising in you. They are there!

Write and tell me about them!

Blessings undercover abound!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Room For Change: The Momentum and Reflection

As we, the griever, create for ourselves, new habits and new senses to the changes around us, momentum pulls us forward.
There becomes a time of excitement when the hurt of the loss appears to close and the wound now feels like a scar.
We are encouraged by our own creativity and endeavors and others rally around us. It is like a victory lap on all accounts.

We awaken another day, as grief appears to have shifted from the low drone of the second gear to almost third gear and wonder how we got here and now what? The crowd of encouragers have been swept back into their lives and we are but a memory. They are relieved in our movement forward and through change. We sit. We are stuck again. We feel that overwhelming grief of shifting one more gear and hear the grinding as the old feeling of hopelessness vibrates in our bodies. Not again we whisper.

Remember in this time of growth and change to reflect on how far you have come through your loss. Write down all the things you have done since your loss that you never did before. They need not be things you wanted to do, but you did them.
Look at the list. Reflect on the courage and energy it took to move forward and then slowly shift one more gear. This may be the week for you to simply reflect and rest. Renewal is not always motion. Renewal can be pause and a deep encumbered breath.

Take time on your grief journey to feel the shift and to make time to do the things that support you. It could a new flavor of tea and three magazines today or a detailing of your car on your premises.

A crowd awaits your victory lap but remember to celebrate each lap you take yourself and reflect upon your accomplishments.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Room For Change: In You and In San Diego

Camp Widow in August in San Diego. You must look into it for yourself or for other widows ( and widowers). It need not matter if your loss is recent or several years ago, time and gender are neutral. This group of individuals know how to listen, encourage, lament and just be with other people on a similar journey.

Take a look at their website and the workshops they will be offering, the activities that will be available and the facility that will be hosting it. There is still time to sign up and the staff is hoping to have all states ( in the U.S.) represented as well as international representatives.

Looking ahead with anticipation of sharing and caring with like minded folks. Consider Camp Widow for an excursion this summer. No sleeping bags or notes from mom required!

Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Redesign as a Grief Recovery Tool

New blog on Pallimed discusses how art and creative outlets help one move through grief and explore new terrain in a secure and supporting manner.

The link follows and I will follow up with another few words about this concept next week in less lyrical terms.

Thanks to all who have encouraged me in this endeavor. I know this process works and it keeps on working!

Blessings. Susan

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Room For Change: The Pancake Flip

A previous Room For Change blog spoke of grief and loss with respect to a crayon and deciding the color you might be if you were one. I suggested blue for me, with " not so blue" as my color, as brighter moments now collide with my darker days of grief.

In grief, as we "recover" and challenge ourselves with new adventures our energy can wane. We wonder if depression is our companion or are we simply physically and mentally worn out. We have felt that tinge of relief, of peace or gain and lunge after more. It is intoxicating to feel some relief.

Challenging yourself is great but renewel of simply rest, filling your bucket again and crediting yourself with each day's completion is "recovering" too. Recovering from the unknown terrain you have been traversing.

As my appetite for living fully again increases so has my appetite for food. Last week I imagined again myself as a pancake, on a hot skillet. Staying too long in one place, you can burn and trying nothing new leaves you unbaked and not at your true potential. Know when to flip your pancake. View what is cooking inside of you and turn it over from time to time. Then sweeten your progress with REAL maple syrup. Yum!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Room For Change: In Your Outlook

As you move through your loss or grief, the smallest of changes can be absorbed into your renewed self discovery. The increasing courage creates unique perspectives of life.

A fine line exists between the heavy grief and the renewed joy in living. It is like an erased pencil line that smudges, knowing something was there but it serves no purpose to the complete story now.

Often as grievers we herald the cause to help others in grief because we have been there. We understand. We gain to heal from helping others. There may also come a time, when talking about our grief experience or listening to others speak of theirs becomes a burden." Been there, Done that", echoes in your head. It is not that you are no longer compassionate. It signals a time in your own healing when the past is no longer raw and you are renewed with hope because you have experienced the rawness first hand and created a path through it.

Just as within the early days of loss, when we are told to do what feels right for us, during the later days of recovery and growth, you do not have to feel that you must help others with their loss. Look to how you are feeling. Look to what buoys you up. Look to what immediate joys around you can share with others. Simply being where you are now , in a peaceful place, may be the signal to those in grief of a renewed and joyful outcome on the horizon.

Delight that your story is not complete but that your erasures let you start other chapters.
Your story is unique and gets richer when you concentrate on its main character, you, and how to support yourself and not everyone around you. A beautiful ending will fall into place for everyone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Room For Change:Redefining Your Definition

As healing in your loss widens in your journey, it can be untraceable. It does not feel better yet one day, you catch yourself smiling to the lyrics of a song, or softly and deeply breathing with the sun on your back as you sit in a park.

What you have become you may be still unaware of and still unaware of what you can become.

Grief and loss open the unexpected box of redefining your definition of you. What defines you this days? Are you speaking to others of what you do not have anymore or of what you are? Are you speaking of dreams that appear too large to swallow and assimilate in your life today?

Imagine the you without the loss. Imagine the you in full view of the world with your bruised ego, broken heart and retooled dreams. Imagine the little step you can make today to redefine what you define yourself to be.

" I was ______ and I now am ________."

Feel in the blanks with your own definition. Not the one that you left behind but the one you are building upon. Like the house with its 2x6 framing, you can decide where the windows will go ( what you want your vision to be) and where to locate the door( how you will enter this newly constructed life).

Change can be daunting, yet change can bring to the surface more solid footing for a productive and satisfied life . Like the framers of a new or remodeled home say, " Measure twice, cut once." Measure what you want within your walls at this juncture of loss and find a way to slip it within your redefinition of you.

Redefining yourself requires room for change. The room may provide unexpected treasures for you. Pick up your Stanley 25 foot Powerlock II tapemeasure and cut out what works for you this day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Musical Circle:Wonders and Worries

This poem is dedicated to Linda and Sleepy

Movement fills the air
moving of music
of legs of heart
energy circling
friends dearest friends moving
on-love surrendering
yet expanding, love in
death, love in life
What fine lines define it?

Aches in life, aches in
Yet in all your underlaying
love for us. Bring it forth
in the darkest days
that the sliver of light expand
and touch those in need.
Cast upon us your light for their sake

Needing each other, being with each other, guiding
each other and supporting each other.
Let's ask, Let's love, Let's be.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Room for Change: Icing on the Cake

Grief may slow us down in our present path or swerve us along unknown terrain, yet with every perceived "loss" there can be a "gain". Loss of job, friendship, partner or health may also change our daily habits, creating a sense of emptiness or void.

What can fill this void? Think of a two layer cake. Mine would be decadent chocolate. My perceived loss my spouse , my daughters leaving and my dog dying. On top of that my role as partner, mother and dog tender was gone.

The base layer of my cake, me. The upper level, my family. In between the frosting or glue that made it so sweet and held us together.
What else can be added?

Your foundation is firm, you have not lost anything but now have another chance to build.

Take this foundation. Add a little more spatula full of thick icing. It does not have to match the flavor of the cake. It can be a different flavor and consistency. What is wonderful is that you have another chance to decide how it will taste. Take the time to frost it with experiences that are supportive to you. Others will come along to sprinkle experiences on top.

Remembering that your layers of experience, love and insights are not lost in grief, they can create a sweeter and grander masterpiece because of your foundation. Maybe a three layer cake is in order.

What flavor will your icing be? Life can become sweeter with each layer of loss.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Room for Change: Addition and Subtraction Equals Growth

How is it that one feels so stuck in grief? Is it the fact that so much has shaken up our world? Is it that because we put too many expectations on ourselves to accomplish what our role has been to us and the one lost? Is it maybe that others expect us to "move on" more quickly than we can ever envision.

First Step. Breathe. Let the air and day enter you and then simply let in go.. The exhale is rest, the inhale is nourishment for you. Our bodies during grief can become tense along with our minds. Let a deep breath allow a simple and occassional release.

Second Step. Add something new to your day. Maybe it could be reading a daily devotion or affirmation before you hit the computer to see if anyone has emailed you or before you look at that "to do" list that awaits your daily routine.

Third Step. Take away something from that list that you feel you must do today. Let the priorities rise and fall. Maybe today you take a nap with an old blanket and have your dog join you. Maybe today you buy yourself a new pair of shoes and throw away the sneakers you have been saving for when you do the dirty yard work.

Fourth Step. Add something physically new to your home. This could be a basket to contain all the incoming bills and paperwork that has become such a chore to you or even a new door mat as you enter the house. It could be a new essential oil fragrance added to your car.

Fifth Step. Take away or put away items on your counters, dresser or front closet that are not used daily. See space and opportunites, Shed just a little clutter.

Sixth Step. Add sparkle and shine. This could be as simple as removing the tarnish from an old silver hairbrush that belonged to your grandmother or cleaning the sliding door glass. It might be adding a crystal to the window where the morning sun creeps in. Adorning yourself with something bright like beads or a bracelet can lighten your day and add that sparkle that may be hidden deep inside during grief.

Grief can be like hopscotch . A toss, a miss, a step , an off balance stumble, going and returning, avoiding and landing. Remember that returning home, returning to the uniqueness and beauty in yourself are the steps that will support you in grief. There are friends around to cheer you on in quiet ways. Keep moving, adding and substrating to your days.