Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Support a Griever

There is no time limit on grief. No handbook, either. No rule book that tells you how to DO this, how to live your life, how to function, how to be—nothing, nowhere, can articulate exactly what you are supposed to do after you lose someone so close to you that you literally shared DNA.

The last conversation I had with my mom was an argument. She was really pissed at me for something ridiculous, and she hung up on me as I was mid-sentence.

Tonight, that was triggered.

And it speaks to that desperation of losing someone in exactly the wrong moment: Please don't leave me like this. Not like this. Please...

Because, what if I never speak to you again? What if I never hear your voice again? You are important in my life, and I care about you and love you, and what if that was the very last conversation, ever?

At least make the ending something palpable.

At least try.

At least try not to be so fucking selfish that you just... disengage. Because if you’re hit by a bus before I see you again or talk to you again, you aren’t the one who has to live with that.

I am.

I have had a lot of realizations lately about what it really TAKES to be a witness, to be a true FRIEND, a true PRESENCE, to someone who has gone through the traumatic type of loss that I have experienced.

Here is what I have come to articulate:

To truly be present for someone who is grieving is a gift. It’s a gift to you, and it’s a gift to the griever.

To truly be present, please do not EVER make the grief about you. If you are witnessing grief, please understand that your role is to witness.

Your role is not to make it about you. Your role is not to turn the tables and share about the grief you are also experiencing. Because it is completely unrelated… and therefore not helpful or supportive to the current moment. I don't care how appropriate it seems in your mind. Unless the griever before you specifically asks you to share... just hold on to it. Your turn will come.

Your role is to be present. Fully.

And what that means is this:
  • Sit quietly. Receptive. Open. Willing.
  • Do not try to fix.
  • Do not try to change the subject to something more pleasant or less hard.
  • Do not try to think of the perfect thing to say.

(There is no perfect thing to say.


I realize… being fully present with someone who is actively grieving is incredibly, ridiculously difficult. It’s also one of the most amazing, precious, and appreciated gifts you can give to a griever.

I realize… it’s uncomfortable. Maybe even painful.

It’s hard.

You hate seeing this person in pain. You hate that you can’t do anything about it. You hate that you have no idea what to say. You hate that whatever you say is probably going to be wrong and poorly received.

That’s okay.

You don’t have to say a word.

In fact, that is often the greatest gift of all: silence.

Witnessing, allowing, being—connected, open, and vulnerable.

Intimate, real, and true.

And, yes—


Being fully present for someone who is experiencing intense grief is incredibly humbling.

But it not only incites humility, it requires it.

You must yield to the grief.

It is precious and beautiful, all on its own.

And the person grieving before you is the container that needs emptying.

Allow that pouring out. Create sacred space for it. Honor it.

And realize that no words you say will ever truly capture it, ease it, or tame it.

Grief, is, after all, ever-changing, like the ocean. Powerful, overtaking, and suffocating in one moment—light, playful, and free in the next moment.

It makes no sense.

The most important thing you can do is to allow those swift changes, allow those peaks and valleys and shifts. Allow the waves to roll, allow the undertow to pull you down. It’s going to, anyway, and putting up a fight is not only pointless—it’s exhausting.

And, oh yeah, by the way:

Do not take any of it personally.


It is never (ever!) about you.

I promise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Grief Resources

Thanks to the love and support I’ve gotten, as well as nudges from beyond… I have set up a page that I liken to an anchor—a Facebook community called Grief Resources.

The purpose of the page is to provide good resources for those experiencing grief. I expect the page to overflow with uplifting images and quotes, good grief-related books, classes, retreats, and more.

And I think it’s important to give voice to the community members, too. So periodically I will host a “blog roll” where community members can post their blogs related to grief. I can catalog them in the Notes section, too, so they won’t disappear on the ever-famous Facebook Timeline.

Between that, workshops I’m attending, and continuing to write my grief book, my emotional energy is pretty thin at the moment. Too thin for much of anything else.

And that’s okay.

Please, friends. If you are grieving, or if you know of someone who is grieving—whether that grief is new or not-so-new—please check out Grief Resources. It’s just an anchor. Just a starting point. But it can provide you with guidance.

A light, in the pitch blackness of grief…

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell 2014

At the end of my 2013 rope, I begged for joy in 2014. I got a lot of it. But as much as I wanted 2014 to be the year of joy... it morphed into something else entirely.

And, I have tried to write a neat and tidy synopsis of what I learned this year, what I want to take away, what I want to carry forward into next year.

But 2014 was messy. Really messy. Not in a bad way, just—messy. I had ups and downs, ups during the downs, downs during the ups—bursts of joy amongst the tears. Burst of tears smack in the middle of joy.

The reality of loss set in. The reality of dreams I no longer get to have also set in. And once it set in—I couldn’t deny it any longer. I couldn’t just change the subject and make it easier or better or more positive.

As much as I wanted 2014 to be about joy… what it ended up being about was acceptance

Accepting where I am, who I am, what has happened, what is happening, and what each moment brings. Living in the present has its merits, and acceptance is a big one.

2014 taught me the value of fully living in the present moment. What sucks about living in the present is that it’s hard to go back and ruminate over the year, because I didn’t record a lot of it, except on Facebook or Instagram.

I spent most of the year living day to day instead of trying to capture my thoughts about living day to day.

That’s unusual for me—but it isn’t bad, good, or indifferent. It simply is.

Right now it is like this: I am glad the year is over.

Somehow I feel unjustified in saying that, because it wasn’t a bad year. But it’s my truth, so there you go.

I learned the value of rest this year. I learned the value of letting go. I learned the value of rooting. I learned the value of sitting quietly and doing nothing. I learned the value of sweating buckets in hot yoga.

All that to say—I learned the value of self-care on a level I never knew I could care for me. The reasons I practice self-care have shifted ever-so-slightly, but what’s more impressive is that the depth to which I practice self-care has grown deeper than I ever thought possible.

I have learned to ask my body/mind/spirit/soul what it needs, what it longs for—and whatever the answer, I heed it.

Most of the time, that means slowing down and doing less.

The exhaustion I still feel confounds me. I thought I wouldn’t feel this tired anymore. I thought I would have more of my energy back. I thought…

It doesn’t matter what I thought, because everything I have learned about grief is that it’s different than what you think it is or what you think it’s supposed to be.

And that’s okay.

The end of this year has been quiet—very quiet. And for that, I am thankful. Quiet equates to slow and deliberate—two key pieces to my puzzle of transformation.

I can see and feel myself transforming.

And I know with a certain degree of solidarity that this transformation is my best yet. I am on the cusp of something big, special, and mind-blowingly awesome.

Yes. Amazing things are coming! I wear that belief like a new tattoo. And I smile as the wise words of Carol Lee, who I met this year, ring true in my heart right now.

I asked her, “How do I practice trust?”
She said, “You don’t. You just ‘be.’ Be the observer, and the trust will come.”


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Right Now It Is Like This

I first heard that phrase just over a year ago, and it started a whole new phase of evolution in my life.

I heard it from Lucia Horan as she taught a 5rhythms workshop in Dallas. She mentioned who coined the phrase, but I don’t remember.

When I first heard this phrase, it resonated in a way that “It is what it is” can’t and never could. That’s because “It is what it is” has no movement. It implies inertia. Dead weight. Something to complain about.

But “Right now it is like this” has movement. It is grounding. It acknowledges that this moment right here—the present—is all that exists. Perhaps it’s not exactly what I want. Perhaps I feel emotions I don’t like or don’t want to accept.

But those feelings, those emotions, are temporary. They will pass. This phrase helps me accept it—because when I say “Right now,” that means I could (and probably will) feel differently in just a few minutes. That means I can change my perception, change my attitude, and, just like that—shift. Move. Gain forward momentum.

And, the second part, “It is like this,” reminds me to name my feelings. Name the situation. Describe it and what it feels like, so that the next time it comes around, I’ll recognize it faster—which also means I’ll recognize that I can move through it, too.

And in variably, I do—and quickly.

In other words, “Right now it is like this” is empowering.

The tattoo isn't blurry... that's from my camera phone not knowing exactly where to focus. :)

And now I have to share the story about actually getting this phrase tattooed on my arm.

I knew who I wanted to do the lettering. I’d stalked his Instagram for a while, and although I love his lettering, it’s not really “my style” as far as something I would want permanently on my body. But I still felt he was the right guy to do it—so, I went with it.

I was frustrated that day because I was in the middle of the push-pull of trying to open my heart to the man I was dating, yet I kept pulling back (now I know why... *ahem)… I felt out of control, and I was struggling to trust myself (and him). And, he called me out on it—and there I was, in Denton, at the tattoo shop… my heart pounding because I wasn’t sure what would happen with the guy, but I also wanted to make sure this tattoo turned out just right, too.

(Even now as I read over that last paragraph, I’m smiling at my own control issues. I am a “recovering” control freak. Sometimes I fall off the wagon, though…)

I met with Joe (Zombie Joe, aka Joe Chavez) and told him what I wanted—in excruciating detail. He came back up front with a drawing, and I didn’t like it. I made some suggestions of what to change, and he went back to draw it again.

When he came back out, it looked somewhat better, but I still didn’t like it.

He went back to the drawing board a third time and emerged to the front of the shop with a few more drawings.

I still wasn’t happy with the drawing, and I became increasingly frustrated.

I could tell Joe was frustrated, too.

At that point, he had a little “come to Jesus” talk with me. He told me that he was an artist who had won awards all over the world for his lettering. “This is what I do,” he said.

He asked me to just… let him do his thing.

I immediately understood where he was coming from. I agreed. He popped up off the couch—clearly re-energized—and disappeared into the back.

He came back up front a few minutes later with a sly grin on his face.

When he showed me the drawing, I immediately loved it and felt overcome. Tears came to my eyes as I nodded yes and said, “I love it.”

“Really?” He said.


Later, I thanked him for talking sense into me and I pointed out the irony of the whole thing—with how much I struggled with trying to control the tattoo, when “Right now it is like this” actually helps me differentiate between my emotions and feelings (which I cannot control) vs. how I respond to them and what I do with them (which is within my control).

(And yeah, we had a good laugh about that.)

When I look at this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind scripting on my arm, I can’t help but smile.

Right now, it is like this.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

25 Classes

Sunstone Yoga gives wristbands for achievement. (10 & 25 classes)
25 classes. It might not seem like much, but that's 25 hours of hot yoga. It is just the beginning, really.

But this beginning is profound.

Some days are still hard. Really hard. Usually that happens when I am low on resources—dehydrated, too hungry, not enough sleep. And sometimes, it’s just random.

But I get through every single class, and that still feels like an accomplishment, although I must admit that the time goes by so fast, it blows me away.

And at the end of that hour, I am exhausted, sweaty, stinky, and serene. Not a terrible combination, if you ask me…

So, what has changed? What has shifted in me?

I’m up to going to classes at least 4-5 times a week. It was remarkably easy to get there, even though I was really skeptical at first. I haven’t posted to Facebook for accountability because I actually haven’t needed it.

I am solely accountable to myself.

Holy shit!

This might just be the first endeavor in my entire life where I haven’t needed to be accountable to anyone but me. That’s huge! And I didn’t actually realize it until just now, as it hit me that I’d stopped posting yoga updates to Facebook.


As far as other changes, there are the outwardly obvious things—my posture has vastly improved. My skin looks amazing and glowy and happy. My clothes are all fitting looser because I have lost inches. And over the past 5 weeks, even though I’m not actively trying to lose weight (because on yoga days I tend to eat like a horse, or so it feels like, and I love to eat, and I eat whatever I want so long as it’s got ingredients I can pronounce and identify and feel good about eating)… I have indeed lost 5 pounds. And of course, I am more flexible, I’m getting stronger, and my balance is better (most days).

And it’s really cool when I can hold poses longer than I used to, or better, or both. It’s fascinating to see and feel my own progression and growth and change. I am enjoying this process very, very much.

But the real, soul-deep benefits are much harder to articulate.

I’ve noticed that I’m making yoga a priority, no matter what. It’s not so much the yoga as it is making taking care of me the real priority.

I’ll give you an example.

This past Monday, I knew I was going to go to my dad’s house in the evening. I normally try to catch the 8pm class on Mondays, but after 9pm would be way too late to head up to my dad’s house.

Instead of skipping class, I got up an hour earlier, went in to work earlier, left work earlier, and caught the 5pm class instead. I was done by 6pm and on my way up to my dad’s not too long after that.

In other words, I rearranged my entire day to make sure I could still get to yoga but also get to my dad’s. I fulfilled both priorities and felt great about it.

The more profound piece of that, though, is that missing my yoga wasn’t even an option that came to mind.

Which means that I have turned it into a habit to take care of me and prioritize my own health and well-being. It’s not even an option anymore for me to be sedentary, because that is so far from what I want that it doesn’t even enter my mind anymore.

Even now, that realization brings tears to my eyes.

As I anticipated, hot yoga is changing my life. I feel calmer and more in control during the day. I am sleeping harder and better. I’m not waking up at random times of the night anymore. I am able to fall asleep immediately once I’m in bed—and that is a gift, considering falling asleep fast (or sometimes at all) eluded me after my mom’s death.

Oh yeah!

There's one other thing. A really big thing, too.

I’ve stopped drinking coffee.

Yes. You read that right… this life-long coffee lover (coffee obsessor, more like) has actually stopped drinking coffee altogether.

Before—I drank about 20 ounces of coffee.

That’s a lot of caffeine, y’all.

So now it’s one or two cups of tea (or perhaps a chai latte using almond milk), and if I drink any tea in the afternoon or evening (and I often do), it’s herbal and caffeine free.

And I honestly couldn’t feel better about it than I do. I feel great! I love the smell of coffee, and I do still enjoy the taste (provided there’s enough cream and sugar), but even after a couple of sips, I can recognize that my system just doesn’t like it anymore. In fact, my system all but completely rejects coffee, now that I’ve stopped consuming it.

These changes in me are profound.

And there are more (good! happy!) changes, too—not having anything to do with yoga.

But you’ll have to wait for another post…

Monday, August 25, 2014

Shifting Focus

The dating scene is quiet.

On purpose.

I’ve stopped dating for now. It was taking entirely too much energy from me, and it’s not like it was really getting me anywhere—except feeling discouraged, disgruntled, and disheartened.

I have "almost" posted about it here, many times. But there's already so much negativity in the world, and trying to craft a thoughtful post or two on dating when I'm really just full of piss & vinegar about the whole thing is, well... a bit futile.

On the (wayyy!) upside, that means my time has become totally my own again.

I’m focusing on two things: writing and fitness.  

The writing part is a no-brainer. I have books to write and classes to teach, and I’m working on both. In fact, I might just take a quick moment here to shout out to our wonderful Wholehearted Writing group. You can like the Facebook page—where I post photos and other inspiration that helps you keep writing (or at least thinking about it).

You can also find us on! Our membership has grown to over 100, and we regularly have writers attend our Wednesday evening meetings (twice a month). I’ve set up a workshop in September (based on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown), and I’ve just set up another one for October (based on The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz; this is a great book that I’ve blogged about before).

And I’m still working on a book about grief.

And a book about writing.

The second part of my current focus is fitness. But I’ll write more about that some other time…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Love Completely Without Complete Understanding

“We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly. So it is, that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always, say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.’”

I had a conversation with a friend recently wherein I felt absolutely helpless to help him. He reminded me of Paul Maclean in the story, A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean.

In that story, Paul is the younger of two brothers. He is wild and untethered—free as a bird, popular, and a very big fish in a very small pond.

Except… he isn’t wild and free. He is tethered to the depth of his own pain, to his sense of unworthiness and his tendency towards heeding the call of spirits, gambling, and showing the world just how tough he really was. He was feisty and stubborn, to say the least.

Norman is the square older brother who follows the rules. He’s the writer—the one who tells stories on paper, the one who goes away to college, the one who seems… quieter. Not as shiny. More sensible, and therefore more boring.

I have always felt a deep connection to the story. To the lyrical turn of phrase in Maclean’s writing, to the sentiment behind loving family without fully understanding them, to feeling constantly misunderstood and under-estimated.

I watched the movie version of this story today, in hopes of finding a deeper understanding of what my friend is currently going through, or possibly a different way to connect with him that might be more helpful.

Instead, I found myself in a pile of tears as I realized another layer of understanding of my own family, my own sister, and my own appointed role in it all.

It hit me that Wendy was much like Paul. She defied the rules of our parents with a ferocity and unapologetic glee that I rarely see depicted in books or on screen. And I, of course, am like Norman...

In one scene of the movie, Paul, Norman, their mother, and their father (a preacher, played by Tom Skerritt) are sitting around the dinner table. They all turn to Paul and ask him to tell a story. Instantly, my mind flashed back to the tales Wendy used to tell—dramas about her kids, her man, her work. Or maybe something about the fire chief, a fire the community rushed to put out, or maybe another story about another animal that had found her.

I watched through blurry vision from my tears as Paul stammered, searching his memory for a story to tell.

Quietly, Norman says, “I’ve got a story.”

Three pairs of eyes turn to him, and he softly says that he’d been offered a professorship at the University of Chicago. A moment of deep pride shown on his face as for once—Norman took the spotlight in his own family.

The camera pans to Paul (played by Brad Pitt).

The look of pain and unworthiness in his eyes is incongruent with the loving smile that has crept across his face: a genuine mix of disappointment in himself and pride for his brother’s hard work and good fortune.

I know that look.

I know it all too well.

But there is another layer to this story.

Towards the end of the movie, Paul, Norman, and their father go fly fishing. Norman and the preacher sit high on the banks, tired from catching their own trout, as they watch Paul scope out the river and finally spot a fish he wants to try and capture.

They watch in silent awe as Paul artfully sweeps the fishing line out across the water. It lands inches away from the fish, and it latches on—taking Paul for quite the ride down the sharp rocks and rushing waters of the Big Blackfoot River. That fish is so big, so strong, that it’s all Paul can do to simply hold on to the line as he’s whisked downstream.

Eventually, the water calms, and Paul comes up for air. He captures the fish, reels it in, and proudly holds onto it as Norman and their father look on with amazement.

Norman narrates, “At that moment, I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. My brother stood before us, not on the bank of the Big Blackfoot River, but suspended above the earth, free from all its laws, like a work of art. And I knew just as surely, just as clearly, that life is not a work of art and that the moment could not last.”

Soon after that perfect moment, Paul was killed.

“Do you think I could have helped him?” he asked.
“Do you think I could have helped him?” I answered.
We stood waiting in deference to each other. How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions?

(I have asked myself that question about my sister. I know my dad has, too.)

I was fortunate to witness my sister's perfection.

I saw the way she fell head over heels in love with motherhood. Not with her older children, but in her later years, when she had Kasey. I’d never seen such awe, such patience, and such flowing love in my sister as I did when Kasey came into our lives.

My sister’s perfection was a bright shining beacon in that brief time. She had darkness. She had pain. But Kasey opened her heart in a way she’d never been open before, and when that happened, I knew I was witnessing magic. And that magical love spilled over onto her other children, as she realized, perhaps for the first time, that these beings had shaped her, changed her, and defined her in the best possible ways.

I’ve been missing Wendy a lot lately. I realized earlier this weekend that I can’t quite remember the exact color of her eyes, and what they looked like. I can see them in pictures, of course—but when I close my eyes and picture her face… the details have started to fade.

I miss my family.

And I often feel like I’m supposed to live this huge life to make up for my mom’s and sister’s lives being clipped so short. As if I owe them, or my family, or myself, or some other entity, or all of the above, because I’m still here.

I know that isn’t logical.

But grief never is…

“It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.”

“…you can love completely without complete understanding.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Visit from Mr. Bee

As I approached my car this morning, I reached to open the front door, and then, as usual—I reached to open the back door so I could put my lunch bag in the back seat.

Except, I spotted a honeybee hanging out on the back door, perched near the handle.

I stood for a moment, gazing at him. He was just… resting. I leaned in a little closer to make sure I was seeing an actual honeybee, and his stillness struck me. He turned a little, as if to look back at me.

Huh, I thought to myself. I wonder why he’s here?

“Well, hello Mr. Bee. I don’t want to disturb you, but I am going to be driving here in a minute.”

I slid into my driver’s seat and closed the door.

Mr. Bee was still perched in the same spot.

I put my car in gear and very slowly, I pulled forward out of my parking spot.

I smiled and watched as Mr. Bee flew off, and I thought it was odd. And yet—his presence on my car felt purposeful. It felt like he greeted me with intention, whether it was to remind me of the promise of spring, to bid me good morning, to wish me a good day, to bring me a good omen, or simply to say hello from my mom.

Mr. Bee made me think, though—of how afraid I used to be of honeybees. I am allergic to their sting, and I’ve been stung a few times. And each time, the reaction is exponentially worse.

I made peace with honeybees in September 2010, when I traveled to Maine at the onset of my divorce. While there, I pulled over to step through an old cemetery. I still can’t explain why, it was just something I needed to do.

It was teeming with honeybees, buzzing by my head, close to the ground, and everywhere in-between. Their flight was slow and methodical, their patterns making them appear to be floating, rather than flying. Clearly, they were on a mission to gather nectar.

I said a prayer to the bees then. I asked that they leave me alone. I said I was going to trust them not to sting me. I let them know that I meant them no harm or threat. I told them that I needed to be there, and that I didn’t understand why, but I asked that they let me be, so that I could grieve.

And then, I watched in wonder as the bees slowly moved away from me and on to other parts of the cemetery where I wasn’t walking.

I have had a soft, gentle space in my heart and a healthy respect for bees since that day.

Now, when I come across one or more honeybees, I approach with a sense of wonder, respect, and curiosity. I always speak to them. They are intricate and beautiful creatures, and we very much need them on this planet.

When I think of how I used to approach them—with fear, irritation, and judgments—I wonder how many interactions I have tainted in my life because of the attitude I used to have.

And, I wonder how this ties to my approach to other beings, including humans… I wonder if Mr. Bee’s visit this morning was just to remind me of what’s important today (and every day).


Just be me… and be present in the moment... and the rest will come.


Thank you, Mr. Bee, for your timely reminder… even now, as I finally type this blog, tears stream down my face.

Perhaps Mr. Bee’s real reminder wasn’t meant to hit me until just now.

Perhaps Mr. Bee’s presence was a message straight from God—oh, how delicate and flimsy my faith has been lately. But in this moment, all I can think is:

All is well.

All is well.

All is well…