capture your grief, day 18: healing therapies

I guess it was a good thing that my mom called a local grief center for recommendations for a grief counselor for me. How in the heck would we have known to ask for someone who was trained in grief and trauma? Or who was a Fellow in Thanatology (the study of death, dying, and bereavement)? Or that there are bad ones out there? I am lucky that who I ended up going with happened to be a grief guru of sorts.

I’ve had a few opportunities to engage in art therapy. One activity at a grief retreat in Boulder was spent in “sacred silence” adorning a box with the choices of more craft supplies than you could imagine. I created this little soft, cushy, flannel box. It was surprisingly emotional. And I’m sure, utilized different parts of my brain as I picked out the perfect stones, colors, textures, and shapes. There is something about creating with your hands.

It gives your feelings something to do.

At a four-day retreat in Sedona we practiced guided meditation. There are so many benefits of mindful meditation that I want to incorporate it more into my life.

Yoga has been the perfect way to get back into exercising. Again, something I want to make more time for.

I think any expression is positive, like Capture Your Grief. Writing has been a major healing therapy for me.


A Kade vision board I did early on. Love vision boarding.

selah retreat: day 3

Day 3: Going toward grief


Finger labyrinths we made after walking the labyrinth on day 2. Mine is the first on the left. On it is a purple lavender flower given to me by a mom who heard purple reminded me of Kade, and a sugar skull bead.



the view out my casita door as I left for morning meditation

6:20 a.m. meditation again. No tears this time. It was a guided meditation, similar to yesterday’s small group exercise. We were to acknowledge where in our bodies we carried our grief, what it looked like, talk to it, listen to it. My grief was in my stomach, because sometimes I feel sick to my stomach when I think of Kade being gone. It was a ball of molten lava, or fire. I tried to throw it away but it was too dense and heavy and wouldn’t go. But…I was able to press it down into a small ball. Compress and compact it.

I ate breakfast with my shuttle buddies.


Tami, Eileen, Claire and Jenny

Let me tell you about the meals, that I wistfully missed after I got home. We ate al fresco in perfect, breezy temps. The buffet was filled to the brim with colorful, mostly vegetarian options. My favorite was the coffee: cinnamon vanilla flavored. Now sometimes I sprinkle cinnamon in my morning coffee. Meal-times got a bit noisy, with other groups at the communal dining hall. There was a group of Japanese tourists, and a few of what I presumed to be yoga or wellness retreats. When these happy, vacationing people would merrily and loudly enter the dining area, someone in our group (her name might have started with a “Dr.”) joked, “Tone it down! Kids are dying over here!”


on the walk to Earth Hall

Our morning small group exercise was pretty excruciating. Dr. Joanne was our leader. We were to fill out a short form finishing the sentences:

Since you’ve been gone, physically I’ve felt _____________.
Emotionally I’ve felt ___________________.
Spiritually I’ve felt ____________________.
I wish ____________________.

We were then paired up. In front of the group we were to look our partner in the eye as if she was our child. And she was to hear and acknowledge what we had to say. Oh my goodness, the tears. It was super emotionally-charged.

The exercise was topped off with a natural segue discussion of tears. What happens biologically when they’re released. Which led to the topic of the “flight or flight” response. I learned there are a couple additions to fight or flight I didn’t know: fighting, flight, feeding and…reproduction. It was a fascinating and informative discussion!

After lunch we were to go off with the person we’d been paired with and spend the next couple hours learning each other’s child’s life story. This would lead to tomorrow’s topic: looking outside yourself to others. We were to create something for our partner in their child’s honor. An art project. A drawing. A poem. A song. Anything. To present on the last day in front of everybody.

Oh the pressure!

We headed to a waterfall oasis. For the next two hours, it was just Tami, me, the lizards skittering across the rocks, and Kade and Joel.


the waterfall oasis







walking back from the oasis

That night was my least favorite part of the retreat. Singing, dancing, and working on our art projects without letting our partner see. The singing and dancing were cute at first, but went on a little too long. Then the art project. At that juncture of the retreat I was just too tired to give it the focus it deserved.

Poetry usually comes pretty easily for me. I can bust out funny songs or rhymes without much trouble. So a poem was the route I was heading for Tami. But that night I Could Not. Nothing came. I had material and stories and felt I knew a little about funny, sarcastic, and likeable Joel. My brain felt slippery. Evidently I’m not good at time-sensitive poetry.

Tami is one of my favorite people. I spent the most time with her, and I loved our opportunity to learn about each other’s boys. We have a bond and I have a feeling the retreat isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of each other. It gave me great joy to give her something from my heart to honor Joel. Had it been for her eyes only I think I would have felt more at peace with what was coming to me. Instead, I second-guessed and felt as if it wasn’t good, or grand, enough. If I encounter this type of project again I hope I leave the anxiety out of the creating and giving.


I finally got a picture of the evening light on the rocks the last night.

Stay tuned for day four–the last day!