blogging a to z april challenge – d

d – dreams

Several of the professors at Regis happened to come from a depth psychology/Jungian background. This is a focus on the “unconscious” and includes dreamwork.

At the conclusion of my Grief Counseling class, the benchmark paper was to “include sleep dreams you may have had that companioned you during a grieving time in your life.” I was glad I had recorded my Kade dreams in a dream journal I keep by my bed.

For this project I got to revisit a dream, research the writings of Jung and other depth psychologists, and get my professor’s feedback. That exercise was the essence of the joining of my grief and my counseling education.

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blogging a to z april challenge – c

theme: how my recent grad school experience impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade

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As soon as I thought of this topic, I was wistful for my classmates. Though our classes were at night and we had our own lives and families, we came together for something special a few nights a week (and some long Saturdays).

We crisscrossed paths over the program’s progression from wide-eyed newbies taking core classes, to getting into intense material, to our grueling clinical year, to the weary elation of graduation.

As I said in a previous post, a master’s counseling program is extremely self-reflective. Something we often heard was that we can’t take a client further than we’ve gone ourselves. We got to know each other and our stories.

I’ve written this before: School did not make especially difficult times in my grief, such as Kade’s birthday or the anniversary of his death, harder, but provided a (surprise) bonus source of support.

I’ve had classmates ask if they could give me a hug after class after topics especially close to home. I got a text from a thoughtful classmate asking, “Isn’t this the weekend you’re going rafting for the anniversary?” And there have been countless other examples of my classmates showing up in my grief.

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Made it through Counseling Techniques I

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Graduation – December 2018

blogging a – z april challenge – b

theme: how my recent grad school experience impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade

b – beliefs

Although it was a Jesuit Catholic university, in my opinion our counseling and family therapy program supported all spectrum of faiths and beliefs. The program was about deep self-reflection as much as about theory, research, and techniques. We learned the importance of addressing a client’s spirituality in therapy as well as cultivating our own spiritual practice.

After Kade’s death, my belief system was challenged. Number one, I was questioning my faith and beliefs before Kade died. Number two, he died, which set in motion examining the meaning of EVERYTHING, including my belief system. And number three, school provided outlet for this reflection, with about 814 self-reflection papers, against a backdrop of classes such as Spirituality and Counseling. Pretty handy.

Like so many things, I continue to examine my beliefs and nurture my spirituality. As I grow into myself I feel less tied to dogma and more drawn to humanism and connectedness. I like opportunities to be exposed to different people, faiths, beliefs, and expressions.

For goodness sake, my clinical year was in Boulder. With Naropa University students and graduates. How could my spiritual plane not be expanded by that?

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I often pulled over and snapped pictures on my drive to my internship in Boulder. 

blogging from a to z april challenge – a

I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The goal is to publish one blog post a day for the month of April, except for Sunday, that corresponds with the day’s letter. I participated in 2016. That year I didn’t have a “theme” other than the general theme of my blog, honoring my son and my grief and healing journey. I enjoyed going back and re-reading my posts from the challenge, stoking my Kade memories.

I decided I will choose a theme for the challenge this time, beyond that of my blog. Recently I was given the assignment from my therapist to write about how my recent master’s degree experience has impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade. There you have it—my theme.

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A joyful milestone beginning my final, clinical, year of the program

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Kade, Washington Park, Denver, 2010. Kade’s little brother, Asher’s, first outing after being born.

How my Recent Master’s Degree Experience has Impacted my Grief and my Continuing Bond with Kade

A

The word I’ll choose is ambivalent. I don’t believe I ever used this word, or knew its definition, before grad school. It means having two seemingly contrary beliefs, or feelings, at the same time. It’s BIG in counseling, mindfulness, and working toward being able to sit with difficult emotions.

I felt connected to Kade in my program with all I was learning and the program’s heavy self-reflection focus, and also disconnected from him (and my life) because I was so damned busy. I felt as if I remembered him more because I was experiencing class content that pertained to him, and also less because I made less devoted time for things like journaling and going to his memorial stone.

Ambivalent. I’m feeling ambivalent about the A to Z challenge right now. I’m anxious about my decision to participate, and I’m questioning this topic I chose, which is personal and a little abstract. And I’m happy I decided to participate to get me writing again, and to have completed my first entry.

retreat for two

Saturday 3/24/18

Here I am. At my retreat for one that’s really a retreat for two. I’m sitting in an above-garage studio apartment in the foothills above Boulder. It’s gorgeous up here, of course. I’m surrounded by pine trees, steep and windy roads, dirt-and-rock terrain that tells me I made it out of the city, mountain homes that blend with the environment, and chilly piney mountain air.

I’m sitting on a comfy chair with my laptop on my, well, lap, because there’s no table or desk. I’m hoping I don’t get a stiff neck on my weekend away where I plan to do a lot of writing. I might steel away to a coffee shop for an ergonomic break. When I look slightly to my left I am looking to the east, and out a row of windows, I can see the city of Boulder and plains beyond. When I look slightly to my right I am looking out the French doors onto the sunshiny deck and mature ponderosa pines dotting the property.

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The closest branch is a mere 20 feet from where I sit. And this is my view if I were to look up and behind me.

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My bed is under the skylights so I literally fell asleep underneath a bright crescent moon and stars.

You know what I wish? I wish I was in the Boulder area this weekend because I was visiting Kade at CU (as much as it would pain me that he wasn’t at CSU).

It would go like this. We would have planned way ahead, because he would be a busy student (and, oh yeah, I would be, too). He could meet me here at the mountain casita, or I could meet him at the place he shares with six roommates…OK, we’d meet here. 😉 This time it would be just me visiting, because most of the time Brian and Asher would be with us when we get together. He’d know where to take me to hike off the beaten path. We’d probably have to drive a ways, but that would be OK ‘cause we’d have time together in the car.

But it’s not that. This is something…less normal. This is something I felt pulled to do…but think it’s shitty that I am doing it. I took care to plan it…but was pissed off driving up. I couldn’t wait!…but tears came to my eyes when I walked in the doors.

I’ve been dying (no bad pun intended) to get away for one night to have alone time to be with myself, my grief, and Kade. In a paper in my Grief Therapy class (a YEAR ago) I remember writing that I would soon plan time by myself for this purpose. Months ago, I told a select few friends that I was going to do this soon.

Now that I have started the clinical portion of my program, the time crunch has been on. Commuting, learning, clients, groups, supervision, receiving feedback, documentation…But this weekend, book-ended with practicum obligations near Boulder, contained this 3-day possibility.

And here I am at Starry Nights Mountain Casita.

Happy and sad. Writing and hiking. Missing and being with. Mothering and indulging. Answering and questioning.

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I know how to party

Sunday 3/25/18

It’s 5:00 p.m. and I’m bushed. I went on two hikes yesterday and one today. The first was before lunch, down the road. The views in the neighborhood are stunning.

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It was to be an easy little walk to just get outside before lunch, but I forgot: what goes down must come up. These hills are steep! After lunch I took the Airbnb hostess up on her hike recommendation: Mount Sanitas Trail in Boulder. Ahem, I wonder what kind of shape she thinks her guests are in? Evidently great, being this is Boulder, one of the fittest places in the country. Frick, it went straight up!

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The trail required you to step up probably 12 to 18” each step. Not so bad going up slowly, but each step coming down was like doing a squat. I’ll just say I can feel my quads today. Not entirely a bad feeling, though, as it felt good to work out. Going straight up made for pretty views.

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I started my days with yoga. Yesterday I found a video for energizing morning yoga, and this morning I found one for yoga for grief. I hope that after I get home that I maintain starting out my days by rolling out my mat, at least some mornings.

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I’m excited to tell you about today’s hike. I feel like a real adventurer, finding my own (rated easy) hike, not relying on navigation apps because there was no address to plug in, driving there, and hiking by myself (well, I hope not really by myself). I did NOT think I would be driving far enough to be able to see Rocky Mountain National Park but I was treated to this when I was almost to the trailhead.

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When I arrived, I was afraid at first. Iamafraidofbearsandmountainlions. There. I said it. I’m a Colorado girl, and admit that whenever I hike, I think of bears and mountain lions. (Are there support groups for that?) I told myself I would go out at least 15 minutes before turning back. But seeing other people on the trail, my bearmountainlion worries dissipated, and I was able to instead focus on soaking in all the mountain goodness.

When I wasn’t thinking of Brian and Asher and getting excit about hiking with them this summer, I was hiking alone with my thoughts. Not something I often do, and it was so cool.

I thought of Kade. I imagined us hiking together. He would be ahead, quicker and stronger. Akin to how Kade’s friends, Dylan and Jason, were on the fourteener they took me up last summer. No worries, though, as Kade would be patient like they were. I would tell him how his dad and I used to go “up the Poudre” to hike with our toddler, who was always up for running to the next bend and summiting the next boulder.

I thought of metaphors for my grief and my Ceran St. Vrain Trail hike. I was nervous about driving up the winding road, ever higher, ever farther than I thought it would be.

I kept going though.

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Me? Lost? No! I just pulled off on this incorrect road for the views…

I felt vulnerable, being by myself (well, you know, sort of by myself). That’s how most of grief is, I think. Sometimes it’s shared: in support groups, retreats, with grief friends, close family, my grief therapist, and other friends. But mostly, it’s experienced in my head, my heart, my body. Even shared moments of grief are just that: shared moments. But I was able to feel vulnerable, and alone, and still keep going.

There was a stretch where the trail narrowed, was covered with hard packed snow, and a steep drop off to one side. I was not a fan.

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The trail even seems to pitch somewhat toward the drop-off, amIright?

I felt some doubt with my old-ish hiking shoes, tired-ish legs, and out-of-shape-ish self. I don’t know if it was the smartest choice, but I checked my tread (looked good) and went for it. I was afraid of a rogue slip that I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Damn, like looking at this section of trail, there have been times in my grief that left my blood feeling cold. And, damn, there will be more. And I’ve survived all of them. Every godforsaken anniversary (how will it be six this June?) and birthday where my young man should be in his twenties, not dead. How have I, and others who love him, survived these perilous spots?

(And did a deer just bound through my field of vision out the window just now to let me know that Kade is OK? That it will be OK?)

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Back to the perilous spots. I guess we get by by checking our tread, steadying ourselves, and just moving forward.

There were trees cut down near the trail where I could see their fresh looking exposed rings. I counted the tiny rings of one up to about 40, and there were probably 20 more. Why did that tree get to live to 60 years and Kade only got to live to 19? Why is Kade one of the cut down trees, and not one of the towering ones all around me?

Monday 3/26/18

I have joined the real world again, and said goodbye to my cozy mountain casita. I’m glad I got to wake to sunshine my first two mornings, but this morning it was a different kind of beautiful to wake to fog and flurries.

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I did another yoga for grief before packing up, and I’m loving this stretching first-thing ritual.

I’ve joined the real world, in my work clothes, in a café, getting ready for practicum group tonight before I can finally trek home. I’m making last edits on my blog. I’m saying ‘bye for now to my quiet mountain retreat, which was at times a visit to my son, at times a visit to myself, and at times a checking out from evvverything and eating really. good. chocolate.

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?

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.