capture your grief, day 18: the grief shift

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A picture I took on a recent afternoon “with Kade.” 

I recently had an opportunity to meet one of my favorite grief mentors for the second time at a book signing (the first was when I attended her retreat for traumatic bereavement). Joanne Cacciatore is the founder of the MISS Foundation and Center for Loss and Trauma, an academic researcher, professor, clinician, and bereaved mom. She’s an articulate and fierce advocate for the traumatically bereaved…and of peace.

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Louise, Patty, Dr. Jo, me, and Terri

Today’s quote CarlyMarie shared by Rumi, “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom” immediately reminded me of my biggest takeaway from Dr. Jo’s book-signing:

The people who have felt pain are the peacemakers.

She explained: Here we are. So what do we do with that pain?

She illustrated the martial art of Aikido. It’s where you accept the energy of the punch, and redirect it.

My experience of grief has been one of mostly learning. Through the learning, I am feeling pulled to inhabit it more. Make no mistake, there have been times of full immersion, especially in the beginning (I felt a pang of anxiety just thinking of “the beginning”). Now…now that it has been five years, and I have been physically and emotionally able to attend to graduate school (and its demand of self-reflection), my focus has been being a highly engaged student. A very busy student. Though I will finish the last year of my program no doubt still busy, I am sensing a shift from these outward demands to inward ones. From school, clinical placements, and the field of counseling…to Kade. To my undying relationship with my first born. To my relationship with myself. To my relationship with this thing called grief. And to my relationship with my broader purpose.

CarlyMarie’s instructions for Capture Your Grief, Day 18, The Grief Shift: I have always loved this quote by Rumi – “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”. What has your experience with grief been like? Do you think of your pain as an enemy or have you made friends with it? Do you believe you can transform the way you feel about it? Where are you currently in your grief journey? Have you had any enlightening moments that you would like to share with others?

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capture your grief, day 4: belonging

I love the smell of glue sticks in the morning!

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I really didn’t think I’d be doing a whole art therapy project this morning. But when I read CarlyMarie’s description for day 4, this is what came to mind.

I love vision boarding. I keep our old magazines for this purpose (which my husband loves—not).

I jotted down some of the relationships/groups in which I belong, and found images for those relationships.

OK, my original vision for this project was better than this. If only I would have remembered that vision before gluing. Picture this: I was going to wrinkle every image to represent that every relationship changed with Kade’s death. But since I forgot to wrinkle before gluing, I decided to wrinkle only the stars peppered throughout, that represent Kade in all aspects of my life.

(Am I supposed to be explaining this or should I leave it to the eye of the beholder?)

There has been ebbing…and waning…and retreating…and even severing in my relationships. Mostly there has been flowing to the ebbing…waxing to the waning…and advancing to the retreating.

Is any relationship the same over time? Don’t they all change? Losing a child might just be a magnification of that (albeit a Hubble Telescope kind of magnification).

And my relationship with myself…would I have even included that on a poster-board before my world changed with Kade’s death?

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Instructions for CarlyMarie’s Capture Your Grief, Day 4: Belonging:

When your child dies, your sense of belonging can be torn apart. Friendships change and we often become the elephant in the room. The circles we belong in no longer feel comfortable. This is a secondary loss. As human beings we need to feel that we belong. If we do not belong, we are left feeling isolated which is a lonely place to be. Have a think about the relationships you have in your life. Have you found your tribe? What do they mean to you? Are you in need of a new tribe? Surrounding yourself with like-hearted people – people who make you feel good, the people who make you feel at home will become cherished like family. “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to BE who you are” – Brene Brown.

capture your grief, day 3: meaningful mantra

I felt “mantra challenged” starting today’s exercise. I didn’t have it in me to create a mantra fitting my mood, and deferred to Google to find a short but expressive one. But I had to start somewhere, even enlisting Google’s help.

I feel the heavy pall around the Las Vegas shooting only two days ago. I have spent entirely too much time around news coverage and responsible gun law advocacy. This healing mantra exercise has come at the very right time.

I knew I wanted my mantra to have some sort of a message of peace for the world. After searching for a while, and passing on mantras that were about inner peace, or that were too long, I hit upon this site:

Chanting for World Peace

What?! Did I just stumble on a project that communally focuses on peace, within a project that communally focuses on grief? Sure ‘nuff I did.

Found my mantra.

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu

“May all beings everywhere be happy and peaceful.”

Click here to listen to how the chant sounds.

I like how you can participate in the project using your own chant or prayer if you choose.

I’m not thrilled about the word “happy” in the chant because I think that our society is obsessed with “choosing happiness!” and “how to find happiness!” to the discounting or pathologizing of other feelings on the spectrum of the normal human condition. But the rest of the mantra, and the communal project of chanting for world peace, made up for its overused h-word.

As a matter of a fact, I might imagine my own word in place of “happy”…like “joyful,” “content,” or “true to themselves.” For a counseling bend I could use the word “congruent.”

How might you change it?

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Playing with the filters on my camera, I settled on the “negative”. I like how the purple amethyst in my mala bracelet (healing for grief) looks like jade.

 

Instructions for CarlyMarie’s Capture Your Grief, Day 3: Meaningful Mantra:

Create a mantra for yourself for this month. Something that you can say to yourself over and over. Something that lifts your spirits. An example – “Today, I live for you. Today I love for you.” Your mantra can be anything that you want. If you say it over an over enough, you will find yourself beginning to live that mantra. Write your mantra down. Write it down multiple times. Put it in different places where you will see it during your day. On your fridge, in your bathroom mirror, one the steering wheel of your car, etc. You may change your mantra up as we move through this month if you want to. Share your mantra with your tribe.

CarlyMarie’s capture your grief, day 2: rise + shine mourning ritual

Day 2 instructions:

“Create a new mourning ritual. When you rise in the morning spend a few moments in silence and create space for yourself. Wherever you choose to do this, whether it is at the end of your bed as you wake up or out side with a cup of tea, take a few minutes to ground yourself. You can do this by either sitting on the ground or placing both feet flat on the floor. Take a good posture and close your eyes. Take some slow relaxing breaths in and out. Envision your child’s light burning bright like the sun from your heart. Once you feel calm, awake and present, dedicate your day to living for your child and set an intention for how you want your day be. Write it down and share it with us.”

I usually wake at the latest possible moment, squeezing all the milliseconds I can out of hitting snooze. This morning, though, I got up with my alarm and turned on my bedside lamp. I scooted upright, and opened my journal to the blank page (the one after my entry from the bank of the Arkansas after rafting), and closed my eyes.

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I thought of Kade. Then I looked at the picture of him holding Asher on my wall. I sat with him for a quiet moment. If you’re not a bereaved parent this might sound crazy to you (or maybe it doesn’t):

It was nice having a little time with him. I’d been missing him. I need to hang out with him again soon.

My intention for the day came to me in the form of a bracelet I ordered from a site I follow, Hands Free Mama. My bracelet reads,

“Only love today.”

There was my intention.

I found my bracelet, jotted my intention, added a little love note, “captured my grief” (snapped my picture), and felt calm and ready for the day.

Starting my morning slowly, mindfully, and by setting an intention was a brilliant change of pace. I will try to do that for at least the rest of October’s Capture Your Grief, and maybe it will become a habit beyond.

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