Friday, September 11, 2009

In Memory of September 11

Today please keep in your hearts, mind and prayers....all those that perished on this terrible anniversary date in our American history. May we all wish healing for the families and friends that had someone involved in this terrible tragedy.

Meditation/Affirmation for the day

On this day I wish for PEACE, LOVE and HOPE to fill all of the friends and families that lost loved ones on 9/11.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Writing Wednesdays

For those of you participating in Writing Wednesdays...sorry about last week. I have been on the road and Internet connections were very sketchy. Anyway, today I have extra prompts to make up for last week! As always, I do hope you are on your healing journey. I also hope you are journaling your grief journey. Journaling can be very healing and therapeutic. It also will allow you to glance back on the see how far you have come in your healing journey.

Journal Prompts

The support I need most during this healing journey is.................

These are the ways I can best obtain the above types of support.........

My greatest emotional needs are........................

The people, places or things that I can turn to when I need extra support are.............

These are the ways the grief support group has helped me.................

These are the things, actions, and/or people that help me get through a tough day.......

Wishing you Peace, Comfort and a Return to HOPE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welcome to Writing Wednesdays......

If you are actively grieving..I do hope you will attempt to journal. Journaling can be healing, insightful and provide a source of connection to your deceased loved one. Many resist journaling. Many get overwhelmed with the idea of starting a journal. However, you can keep journaling very simple and still gain therapeutic value. For example, limit you time to journaling. Devote only ten to fifteen minutes to writing....especially in the beginning to make sure that it isn't too emotionally overwhelming. Obviously, if it is too emotionally overwhelming for you to journal...back off from the journaling.

If you do choose to journal.....please come back and visit every Wednesday. Each Wednesday I will have a new grief related writing prompt(s). Today's Writing Wednesday prompts.

This week.................................

I hope to.............................................

Sometimes grief feels like.............................

Wishing you Comfort, Peace and Hope.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"A Return to HOPE" Affirmations

I would like to "introduce" you to a new set of affirmation cards I have written with the bereaved in mind. This little set of healing reminder cards can be helpful to carry around in your pocket, to set out on your nightstand, or anywhere that will be helpful for you notice them through the day. Every so often I will post an affirmation from the set....I hope the affirmations are helpful for you.




The set of cards can be used in a variety of ways. The following is a sample of uses.

*You can pick a random card to use for meditation.

*You can use the cards to initiate writing a journal entry.

*You can use the cards for visualization techniques.

*You can use the cards for a "quiet moment" and as a reminder that you can heal.

*You can use the cards for deep breathing techniques.

*You can pick a card to carry in your pocket for the day...and pause throughout the day to focus

on the hopeful affirmation.

*You can keep them on your nightstand...and pick one out for the help you through

the day.

As always...wishing you comfort, peace and A RETURN to HOPE.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Unnatural Death....Suicide

There are several deaths that I consider an "unnatural" loss. Loosely I define an "unnatural" death as a premature death. Meaning, the person has passed before they reach the average life expectancy rate. Some examples of an unnatural death are the death of a child, suicide, homicide, or any death that does not occur in the natural sense.
In this post I will focus on suicide. Unfortunately Suicide will take more than 30,000 lives this year. According to the CDC Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
Unfortunately many victims of Suicide do not seek help or share their suicidal thoughts with loved ones or professionals. This often leads the survivor to accepting a huge amount of guilt..thinking he/she should have picked up on the signs. Or, should have intercepted a warning to intervene.

It is also common for the survivors to have feelings of the event being a senseless act. Which leads many survivors to be angry at the suicide victim. It is perfectly normal for the survivors to feel anger. If you are experiencing anger, be mindful of your anger and don't turn around and place guilt on yourself for being angry. Just know that the feelings of anger can be very normal.

Suicide often leaves the bereaved with more questions than answers. Just realize that some of these questions will never have answers. However, the intensity of pain associated with the "why" questions should diminish over time.

The survivors of suicide often experience a shroud of shame. This shame can be the result of many different things. For example...many survivors blame themselves for not preventing the suicide, some survivors feel like they failed the person somehow, some people's religious beliefs may contribute to a sense of shame, etc. Unfortunately, feelings of shame prevent many suicide survivors from seeking help. But, if you are a suicide survivor KNOW that there are healthy coping strategies available after a loss.

An example of some healthy coping strategies are....DO NOT WITHDRAW from friends or family. Seek support from understanding friends, family members and/or an understanding faith/spiritual leader. Join a grief support group. If there is one in your area..join a grief support group specifically for suicide survivors. Being a part of a group brings an understanding and empathy that you cannot find elsewhere...because the participants HAVE traveled a similar road. Don't rush your self with grief. Grief "takes as long as it takes". There is no set period for grief to be over. However, the intense, raw and painful emotions should lessen. Along the way expect waves of grief...or setbacks. It is natural. Some things that may cause intense waves of grief are holidays, anniversaries, birthdays (theirs and yours) or any special celebrations. Waves of grief can also come on completely unexpected. Some days will be better than others for no apparent reason. It is just the nature of the grief beast.

Unfortunately, many survivors of Suicide have a bumpy road to healing. Suffering the loss of a loved one is difficult...add suicide..and it usually makes the grieving process more complicated. Just know that you CAN heal and please seek professional support and/or support groups for suicide survivors. Healing is always a little easier when you know that you are not alone...and people before you have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Seek help/support. Attempting to deny or ignore your feelings may lead to a lengthy and unhealthy mourning period. Which will not help your wounds to heal. Most importantly, if you find yourself in a deep depression with unresolved grief issues you may be experiencing complicated grief (feelings of intense and painful emotions lasting over a long period of time.....). Complicated grief can be so intense that you have trouble resuming any small thread of normalcy to resume your own life. If you find yourself in this type of situation SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a page to locate online and face to face support groups for suicide survivors.

Wishing you the best on this always wishing you Comfort, Peace and Hope.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writing Wednesdays

Wow..where has this week gone? A lot of things are going on behind the scenes at Grief Sanctuary. I have just finished a set of Grief Affirmations Cards. They are simple phrases...and intended to facilitate a healing journey. I have received very positive feedback from the preview copies. I am looking forward to designing the art work for the cards and get them sent off to a publisher. Stay posted for more information.

Since it is Wednesday...that means a new journal prompt. This weeks journal prompt is as follows....

What is your loved one's Legacy? What and how do you want them to be remembered? What are the special things/deeds they accomplished that has made you proud? What were their positive influences? Please feel free to leave comments about the Legacy of your loved ones.

I feel everyone has left a Legacy....whether is was a newborn baby/miscarriage/stillborn......or an elderly adult. Their Legacy allows us connections...and a way to honor their life.

Wishing you Peace, Comfort and HOPE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welcome to....Writing Wednesdays

I am declaring Wednesdays on this blog as "Writing Wednesday" hopes that this will encourage you to journal. Journaling is a great form of self expression. As well as, an inner communion with yourself. Taking the time for yourself, with pen and paper in hand, can be very cathartic. Sometimes it is easier to spill thoughts, feelings, or ideas out onto paper....rather than speak them out loud. Often times we can discover answers and/or insight when we journal. It is my belief that we have all the answers. However, sometimes we have to excavate the answers...or seek support to help us find our answers.

Journaling can be an excellent form of self-care/self-nurture. Journaling is becoming a very popular Expressive Arts activity and many consider it to be therapeutic. There are many different ways to journal. For example, you can journal in a scrapbook, in a professionally bound journal, in a spiral bound notebook, on loose sheets of paper that are kept in a journal box, etc. You can also get as creative as you want. You can use colored markers, pencils, glitter, snippets of paper glued with a glue stick (collage), etc.

Journaling Tips

Put together a journal bag or basket for your journaling supplies. This bag/basket should include a journal and pens. If you want to draw or add color to your journal, add pencils, markers, crayons, etc. to your bag/basket. Keep this journaling basket near a comfortable chair...or in a bag so you can grab and go out into nature under a big tree or in a park.

Set aside a time to journal. Give yourself about 15 minutes. If the material you are writing/expressing is traumatic, you want to limit your time and not overwhelm yourself.

When writing, don't focus on grammar. You don't need full sentences. Just let your thoughts pour out onto the pages of your journal.

Journaling is for your eyes only. Unless, you want to share an entry with someone. So, keep your journal bag/basket in a safe private place.

In closing, I would like to mention that some people use journaling to stay "connected" to their loved ones. For example, you can write letters to your loved one in your journal...and let him/her know what is going on in your life. You can also use a journal to write down things about your loved one that inspires you. Or, you can use your journal to write down the "Sacred Signs" you have received from your loved ones. Journaling quiets my mind and is a prayerful and meditative experience for me. I hope you will try journaling and see what it can do for you. May you gain insight, comfort and calmness in your life. Wishing you hope and peace.

Writing Wednesday Prompt

What does HOPE look like and feel like to you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quote for the Day

On this day...I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite quotes. Please feel free to leave comments on your opinion of this quote...or what this quote means to you. Or, another suggestion, use this quote as a starting point in your journal and journal about the meaning or significance of this quote to your grieving process.

"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love - time is eternity."

Henry Van Dyke

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Return to HOPE

A Return to Hope is the first in a series of bereavement booklets I have written. A Return to Hope is a condensed book filled with healing reminders for bereaved parents.

As a grief and bereavement educator/therapist, I have learned that losing a child is one of life's greatest tragedies. It is an unfair and unfortunate event. This booklet is dedicated to all of the families that touched my heart and lit my soul with inspiration, even in the midst of their own tragedy......the death and loss of their child. They somehow found a way to return to a sense of HOPE. And I wish the same for you during your time of loss.

This little booklet is perfect to carry in your purse or in your pocket. Each booklet is carefully bound with a hand painted butterfly on the cover. It can easily be tucked into an envelope and mailed as a sympathy card.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sympathy Gifts

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

As a Bereavement Counselor/Consultant/Educator I have had a hard time locating heartfelt Sympathy and Memorial gifts. So, I have resorted to making my own sympathy cards and gifts. I have had so many requests from others in regards to my sympathy cards/gifts that I have decided to create my own line of compassionate gifts and cards for the griever. I will soon have a website open that will showcase my line. Until then, if you are interested in any of the hand made products, email me ( or leave a comment.

Hand painted dragonfly Sympathy Card.

The following is written inside each of the Sympathy Cards...

Words alone are not enough to
express my deepest sympathy.
Please know that I am thinking of you
holding you near my heart
during this time.
Wishing you Peace and Comfort.

Hand painted Butterfly Sympathy Card

Sympathy Seeds ©

Each packet of Sympathy Seeds are hand sewn and hand painted with Love and Care...then filled with a generous mixture of Wildflower Seeds or Forget-Me-Not Seeds (or a mixture of both). These are great to tuck inside of a Sympathy Card.

A close up view of Sympathy Seeds.

Wishing you love, peace and hope...

Friday, July 3, 2009

An Unnatural Loss

From time to time I will focus on specific types of loss on this blog. For today I thought I would focus on the loss of a child. Of all the losses, I do believe this is the most unnatural loss. Losing a child is not the "natural order" of loss. It is contrary to the laws of nature that parents precede their young. Often, I have heard parents say, "I was supposed to die before my child".

Whether you knew in advance that your child was dying from a terminal disorder or if your child died suddenly, it is not something that any parent should have to go through. Losing a child is an unimaginable death to those of us that have not suffered the loss. As a grief therapist I can't imagine the pain of this type of loss. Not only do you suffer the death of your child, you also grieve the loss of all the hopes and dreams you had for that child.

It is common for parents to comment "I feel like a part of me died too". In essence, I think it is a true statement. You nurtured the child, loved him/her and helped to mold them. Part of you lived through that child....whether it is your biological child or adopted child. The pain of loss is there whether your child was a baby or a 45 years old.

Thankfully, there are many support groups and organizations out there that specifically focus on this type of loss. One of those great organizations is The Compassionate Friends. The Compassionate Friends have chapters all over the United States and the groups are run by volunteers that have suffered the loss of a child. I have heard numerous parents say that the support of The Compassionate Friends has saved their life and helped them to go on living. Please check out their link and find a chapter near you if you have lost a child,

Another great organization, Bereaved Parents of the USA, also offers help and comfort to bereaved parents. Bereaved Parents of the USA specializes in helping the newly bereaved. They are also a non-profit self-help type organization. They have a wealth of information on their web site. Take time to take a look around on their site( ), you may find something helpful.

It is also important to note that many of these non-profit organizations have national and regional conferences. If you have lost a child and have not attended a bereavement conference from one of the above organizations, I would highly recommend you doing so. The connections and understanding you will receive is indescribable. Everyone is greeted with no expectations and opens arms full of love, hugs and compassion.

Most importantly, please is possible to return to HOPE. It may feel like a slow journey...or even like it will never happen, but you have to trust in knowing that you can return to HOPE. This is not a grief you will "get over". However, this is a grief that you can learn to integrate into your life. Your life has been forever changed and it will never go back to what it was.....but, there can be enjoyable moments again. If you have suffered this type of loss, please find support. This is not a journey to walk alone. Seek support from mental health professionals, understanding friends, support groups, church/synagogue members, chaplains, etc.

Wishing you Love, Peace..and A RETURN TO HOPE.

P.S. Please feel free to comment if you would like to mention additional bereavement support organizations for parents.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What Causes Grief?

Grief is increasingly being defined more broadly. Previously, when someone mentioned that they were grieving, most people assumed it was due to the death of a loved one. Even though it is still the most popular reason why people grieve, other things can lead to grieving.

Wikipedia defines grief as the following: Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. It includes the emotion numbness, disbelief, separation, anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone or something loved........Losses can range from loss of employment, pets, status, a sense of safety, order, or possessions, to the loss of loved ones. Therefore, we can even experience grief when we get divorced, have to move, lose our home from fire, disaster or financial reasons, etc.

Many things can cause us to experience grief. Chances are that you have experienced a form of grief over your life time. Some grief experiences are more difficult than others. Some grief experiences may even be "fixed" when the situation changes. For example, a person may quit grieving the loss of their former job/income when they find a new job. Conversely, some grief experiences will not be "fixed" so easily. For example, when a loved one dies the grief will probably take more time to process and to integrate the loss into our lives.

The death of a child, spouse, friend, parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, other family member or pet can be devastating. Sometimes a death is "expected" due to a terminal diagnosis. Other times the death is sudden and unexpected. Either way, the final outcome is death and usually brings about a degree of grief.

Unfortunately, our culture shies away from discussing and educating people about grief and the natural responses to grief. Thankfully, some of this is slowly shifting. Many things are playing a role in this trend. I think the shift is coming about largely because of the presences of Hospice organizations and how we are beginning to broadly define grief. I am in hopes that this trend will continue and our culture will become more tolerant and understanding of a grieving person.

Wishing you Peace, Comfort and Hope.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Honoring Our Fathers on Father's Day

The holidays can be anything but cheerful when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. This can be especially difficult on holidays such as Father's Day. Holidays stir up a lot of memories, traditions, family gatherings, etc. Therefore, it is common for someone to feel a heightened level of grief on a holiday. As well as feelings of anxiousness while you are anticipating the holiday's arrival.

Please keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Sometimes you have to try many different things to find something that is helpful for your grieving process. So, how can you manage to get through difficult holidays such as Father's Day without your Father? My first suggestion is to MAKE A PLAN to do something on the holiday. Even though you probably don't feel like doing anything. However, when you are actively grieving, a plan to something is often better than a plan to do nothing. A plan to do nothing can sometimes increase feelings of being alone. As well as feed feelings of depression. So, it is important to make a plan to do something with supportive family, friends, church members, etc.

Below is a list of ideas of things you may want to try to honor your Father. Remember to invite supportive friends and family members to join you.

1) Plant a tree in his honor.

2) Write your Father a letter. Tell him anything in the letter. You can even mention how you miss him and what you are doing to cope with his loss. When finished with the letter you can shred it, bury it, or CAREFULLY burn it.

3) Make a donation to his favorite charity.

4) Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers in his honor.

5) Start a creative writing journal in his honor. For example, you could dedicate a whole journal to your Father and "write letters to him" in the journal.

6) Plant some flowers in your Father's honor.

7) Get together with family and friends that to reminisce about your Father.

8) Start a Memory Box in honor of your Father. Just use a simple box and start collecting special mementos that were your Father's or remind you of your Father. Keep the box in a special place.

9) Start a Memorial Garden. This can be as simple as a wind chime placed in the corner of your yard dedicated to your Father. Or, it can be more formal and include flowers, shrubbery and a bench.

10) Plan a get away with family and friends. Take a mini-vacation for the weekend.

This is a short list of ideas. There are many things you could do to honor your Father on Father's Day. Just keep in mind, the Holiday will last for only one day. As always, if you are feeling fragile seek professional help.

Wishing you comfort and peace on this Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honoring Our Fathers

I would like to announce a free class that I will be offering. It is titled, Honoring Our Fathers. This class is just in time to remember our Fathers/Father figures for Father's Day. I know holidays can be very difficult for those of us that have experienced a loss. So, if you are missing your Dad, Grandfather, Uncle, Father Figure, please join us for this class.
This class is a conference call combined with an Expressive Art activity. You do NOT need to have any previous art experience to take this class. We will focus on honoring our Fathers, remembering the "gifts" they taught us and do an Expressive Art project. The class will last for approximately two hours. The first hour and half will focus on remembering our Fathers and the Expressive Arts activity. The remainder of the class I will discuss general grief issues and answer grief related questions.
There will be a limited number of spots. So, please contact me soon to reserve a spot. To reserve your spot leave a comment on this blog entry with your contact information. I will email you a confirmation.

What: Honoring Our Fathers, Conference Call/Expressive Arts Activity
When: June 18, 08 (Thursday)
Time: 8:00PM Eastern Time Zone
Cost: Free

NOTE: This class is not a substitute for therapy. If you feel fragile, please seek professional help in your area.

Monday, June 8, 2009

LOVE is Eternal

I truly believe that Love is eternal. Therefore, the love created between you and your deceased love one is still there. The love is not turned off like a light switch. So, what do you do with that love? How do you make the love meaningful now?

Finding ways to nurture the love can usually ease some of the pain associated with a loss. So, even though your loved one is not present physically, you can discover ways to nurture the love that you experienced with your loved one. Continuing to nurture the love and relationship usually brings a feeling of closeness and connectedness to your loved one.

So, what can you do with the love you have for your deceased love one and how can you continue to nurture the relationship? Depending on your spiritual/religious/personal beliefs, there are many different things you can do. For example, you can create a sacred space in your home that has meaningful pictures and/or belongings of your loved one. You can use this sacred space for prayer or a place to sit and "talk" to your loved one aloud or in silence. Another idea is to create a memory garden in honor of your loved one. The memory garden can include your loved one's favorite flowers, a park bench, a bird feeder, water fountain, etc. Anything that brings nature into your heart, gives you good memories about your loved one and makes you "feel" the presence/closeness to your loved one. Did you know there is an organization called the American Horticultural Therapy Association ( I encourage you to check out their link. The American Horticultural Therapy Association has a great site and more information on the benefits of gardening. Lastly, I would like to mention an Expressive Arts idea.....journaling. Journaling can be an excellent way to stay connected to your loved one. It may be difficult to start journaling, however, once you start it can be very therapeutic and insightful into your healing process. Journaling is a way to express yourself and it is not about using correct grammar, appropriate punctuation, etc. There are many different ways to journal. At this time I will only mention two. The first type of journaling you could do is write letters to your deceased loved one. Tell him/her the new things going on in your life, your concerns, how you miss them, when you "feel" his/her presence near you, etc. The second type of journaling you may want to try is to write about your feelings. This allows you to express your feelings and can lessen the "charge" of the emotions/feelings. As I tell clients...."Don't make live inside your head what doesn't have to...get it out of your head by writing, painting, drawing, etc.". There really are no right or wrong ways to journal. Try it and find a way that suits you.

These activities also continue the legacy of your loved one. Keeping the legacy going can be very helpful in the healing process.

Thankfully, many mental health care professionals realize the importance of maintaining a "bond" with the deceased and finding ways to continue the connectedness. Not too long ago, this was highly frowned on. However, many therapists realize this can be a normal response for some grieving people. I encourage you to find ways to nurture the bond and keep the love flowing. So, whether nurturing your love through a sacred space, memory garden or Expressive Art activities, attempting to try one of these methods may give you insight and offer some comfort and peace.

On your journey I wish for you to find ways to bring love, comfort, peace and hope into your life. I will end this entry with a question.....How can you maintain meaningful connections with your loved one?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Common Words Associated With Grief

There are many words associated with grief. The following identifies and defines ( some of the common words used.

Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. It includes the emotional numbness, disbelief, separation, anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone or something loved. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. Common to human experience is the death of a loved one, whether it be a friend, family, or other companion.

Mourning is, in the simplest sense, synonymous with grief over the death of someone. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate. Customs vary between different cultures and evolve over time, though many core behaviors remain constant.
Wearing dark, sombre clothes is one practice followed in many countries, though other forms of dress are also seen. Those most affected by the loss of a loved one often observe a period of grieving, marked by withdrawal from social events and quiet, respectful behavior. People may also follow certain religious traditions for such occasions.

Simply, mourning is what you show to the world how you are experiencing your grief. It is your outward appearance of grief.

Bereavement often refers to the state of loss, and grief to the reaction to loss. So, it is suffering the death of your loved one.

Anticipatory Grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close or one's own death due to illness. Anticipatory grief can also be a response to other types of impending losses ( a scheduled mastectomy, a pending divorce, a company downsizing, a country at war). The post-loss stages of grief: denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance (Kubler-Ross) can also be present in anticipatory grief. Anxiety, dread, guilt, helplessness, and hopelessness are also common.

Complicated Grief as defined by Mayo Clinic....During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade, those of complicated grief get worse or linger for months or even years. Complicated grief is like being in a chronic, heightened state of mourning.

It is important to note, if you or a loved one are experiencing Complicated Grief seek professional help! Complicated Grief issues can be debilitating and last for years. Complicated Grief is mainly distinguished from a normal grief response by the intensity and prolonged phase of intense mourning. It may also be marked by excessive behaviors such as, drinking heavily, drug abuse, etc. Complicated Grief usually manifest itself over a long period of time, months or even years. Many factors can play a role in leading to complicated grief. Some things that can lead to Complicated Grief are unresolved issues associated with the loved one that has died, if there was an estrangement with the loved one, if there was excessive conflict in the relationship prior to the death, etc.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More about the Kubler-Ross Model

The last blog entry I identified Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of grief. I think it is important to mention that this model has received criticism over the years. Most of the criticism comes from the model being developed for the terminally diagnosed patient, not necessarily for the bereaved family and friends. Some of the other criticism comes from misconceptions and misinterpretations of the stages. However, it is my opinion that this model can be helpful on the grief journey. Grief is not an easy journey. No two people will ever grieve the exact way. But, this model can offer insight into the grief journey.
First and foremost, do not consider this a linear model. So, do not expect to pass from stage 1, on to stage 2, then stage 3, etc. If you can, imagine the stages of this model being in a circle with no particular place to begin or end. There are no stages to "graduate" and no certain place to start the journey. The stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression & Acceptance) can be revisited, rearranged and even removed for some people.
Lastly, I would like to discuss the Acceptance stage. I feel there is a lot of misconceptions about this particular stage. For example, when someone is in the Acceptance stage it DOES NOT mean that they must be "okay" or "like" the loss of their loved one. In my mind the Acceptance stage is more about realizing and acknowledging the reality of the loss. So, it is more about the permanence of the loss and the griever finding a way to "settle" into their new life without their loved one. As well as, being able to integrate the loss/grief into their life and function without overwhelming feelings of loss consuming them.
Unfortunately life will never go back to what it was prior to the death. But, a new sense of normalcy and a return to hope can be achieved.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stages of Grief

As a Therapist and Grief Educator I am often asked about stages of grief. I am asked if there are stages of grief? What are the stages of grief? How long does each stage last? Why have I not experienced all the stages of grief? I get many questions in regards to the stages of grief. Therefore, I thought I would address the topic about stages of grief.

I do believe there are different stages in the grief process. There are many different professionals that will give you many different grief stages and definitions to stages. The stages that appeal to me the most are those set forth by legendary Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

I have always admired the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She first introduced her model in her book "On Death and Dying" back in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a medical doctor that worked with terminally diagnosed and dying patients. She determined that there are 5 stages of grief. Those stages being: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Originally the Kubler-Ross Model/Stages were used with the terminally diagnosed and dying patient. However, many believe that these same 5 stages can be applied to anyone suffering a loss and/or catastrophic event. I personally believe the 5 stages can offer a simple explanation to a grieving person. With that being said, I would also like to point out that the stages do not necessarily come in a specific order. It is also important to note that some people may not experience every stage. I view the stages as a circular model that can be changed, rearranged and revisited. Therefore, don't expect to graduate a stage and head on to the next stage.

Unfortunately, there isn't a model of stages of grief that fits everyone. But, I have found the stages set forth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can offer an uncomplicated explanation of grief to most people.

So, how long does each stage last? Well, that is a great question. But, it doesn't have a set answer. Each person will experience the stages in different ways and in their own time. The stages of grief will last however long it takes. Every person has a unique history and set of circumstances that they bring with them into the grieving process. Therefore, each person must realize their situation and grief process will vary from person to person. You will find similarities among grievers, yet each person's journey will be unique.

The most important thing to recognize during the grieving process is to be able to discern whether or not you need professional support for your grieving process. Some people are able to walk the journey alone. While others benefit from seeking support from friends, support groups, and/or mental health professionals. You do not have to walk this journey alone. Seeking help/support does not mean you are weak. In my opinion it shows you are being active in finding helpful ways to heal. Remember, you have a broken heart...not necessarily a broken mind.

Lastly, if you find the 5 stages of grief by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross interesting, I encourage you to do further research. I only listed the stages. She wrote many books on the stages with great detail of each stage. So, check with your local libray, bookstore or web for more information. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to post a question and/or leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grief and Bereavement Experience

I attended University of Florida's Arts in Medicine program and it changed my life. The program was amazing and confirmed what I had always known, art/creativity is healing. The program was amazing and taught me how to use art with people that were sick and/or hospitalized. Many of these patients had life-limiting illnesses. The artists in residence at Shands Hospital would bring creativity into the hospital rooms and waiting rooms. The mood in the rooms would change! For many, the creativity improved their mood and most importantly gave them an avenue to express themselves. I "graduated" this program a different person. I had acquired more meaning in my life, in the duration of the program, than I had gained my whole life. When I left the program, I knew I wanted to work with Hospice and use Expressive Arts to help people through their losses. I also decided that I wanted to be able to pair a talk therapy model with the Expressive Arts. Therefore, I enrolled in Nova Southeastern University's Marriage and Family Therapy Program. I completed the program and landed an internship and job at a local Hospice.

I had an amazing supervisor and mentor at Hospice, Carolyn Amaral, LCSW. She took me under her wing and taught me the ropes of anticipatory grief (before the death occurs) and bereavement counseling. I gained so much great experience working with the Hospice families. They taught me more than any classroom or textbook could ever provide. I am forever grateful to the Hospice patients and families. The patients and families were always appreciative of the in-home Expressive Art sessions mixed with counseling. I soon learned that Expressive Arts was an amazing tool to have as a therapist. I was able to witness everyday how that creativity allows the person to let down their boundaries and talk freely about their concerns, fears, worries, etc. I had finally discovered my passion in life..........HELPING PEOPLE HEAL THEIR BROKEN HEARTS. How can life get better when you are able to witness the broken hearted return to a sense of hope after a major loss or life transition???? I found my niche and my life work. I am devoted to grief/loss/bereavement work. I am passionate about helping people through these major life transitions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Welcome to this new blog, Grief Sanctuary. I believe today is a very important day to begin this blog. Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is not just a day that begins the summer with family gatherings, picnics, grilling, swimming, etc. It was originally called Decoration day and traditionally was a day set aside to honor fallen veterans. I encourage you, on this day, to remember the veterans that have fallen and to pause for a moment to remember your loved ones that have passed.

On this day I dedicate this posting to my grandfather, Bobby Rowe ("Papaw"). He was a World War II Veteran. "Papaw" was a hero in my eyes and a huge influence in my life. I miss our times together....yet, I feel his presence often.

Wishing all you Peace, Comfort and Hope on this day.

Welcome to Grief Sanctuary


Welcome to Grief Sanctuary. This blog is dedicated to grief/loss/bereavement topics. This is a place dedicated to provide information and education about grief. Most importantly this is a place where mourning is considered a natural response to loss.

We all experience loss in our lives. Unfortunately loss is not recognized or talked about much in our culture. Most often death or loss is considered a taboo topic. I am on a mission to change those deep rooted beliefs. I grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Death was common and not hidden from children. My family taught us that death was a natural part of life and grieving was a normal process. I suppose a lot of that had to do with both my Mother and Father losing a parent at a young age. They were seasoned grievers during my upbringing. Thankfully, they taught me and my brother that grieving a loss is a way of life and you can seek ways to adjust.

A bit about myself......My name is Misti Hall and I grew up in Virgie, Kentucky. I currently reside in Florida and Kentucky. I attended Univeristy of Florida's Arts in Medicine program and earned a Master's degree from Nova Southeastern University in Marriage and Family Therapy. My passion is helping the broken hearted heal. It is my wish for everyone to experience "A Return to Hope" after their loss. It is possible.