by Sandy Walden
Tips for difficult or significant days
There are days when the fog of grief is heavy, and the way forward may feel hidden. There are times, moments, days, or sometimes longer when overwhelm visits. This may be prompted by a day or significance – or just a tough day.
– Take a few deep… slow… calming… breaths
You see when we take those deep breaths, it slows down our heart and our mind follows. Even if it is for a short time, we get that respite. The more we practice, the more natural and easier it comes to us.
– Have a plan
Having that plan reminds us that we have a measure of control. It may be small, but it’s something and when we are grieving a loss it often feels that there is much out of our control.
That plan might be to ask a friend or companion to be beside us during a difficult time.
It could be rehearsing saying our loved one’s name out loud.
The plan might be a phone call to someone who can listen with support and compassion.
Many find it helpful to map out the day or break it down to much smaller, more manageable portions of time. For instance, the afternoon, an hour, even the next few minutes.
– Know that however you feel is alright
There is no need to judge your feelings. Feelings, emotions are simply gauges that indicate to us what is happening within. Sad, nostalgic, joyful, or something else. There are absolutely no rules that say you must feel a specific way as you move through grief.
As you accept your feelings, you are more easily able to process and move through them. Or embrace and expand them if they feel good for you.
– Take a bit of exercise
It may be a walk or run outside. Yoga, stretching, lifting weights, or something different. It’s really about what feels good for you. Moving our body helps to move our thoughts, to shift our perspective and releases those endorphins.
– Do something kind or thoughtful for someone else
It may seem counterintuitive when we are struggling to reach out to another to offer kindness or support, but it’s powerful. It reminds us that we matter, that we can make a difference in the world that matters.
There is research that shows each time we do something for another, whether it be a gesture or even a loving word, our serotonin levels rise. This is even more of a win-win than you might imagine. Because we benefit, the one who we reach out to benefits, and even those who witness or hear about the kindness experiences a rise in serotonin.
Listen to this comforting video as Sandy discusses this topic:
Holidays and Other Significant Days | Serenity - Master Grief Coach and Coaching Certification (sandywalden.com)
by Sandy Walden
Do you need someone to walk with you through grief? Life continues after loss, and this means you may experience more loss or other stressful events. Sometimes a grief coach can help.
When New Grief Experiences Happen | Serenity - Master Grief Coach and Coaching Certification (sandywalden.com)
by Sandy Walden
"When we are grieving we look for guidance, advice, we often turn to experts. And that can be so helpful! At the same time, there are voices that don’t really speak to our hearts. It matters that each of us learns to listen to our own inner voice, the voice that helps us to find discernment, healing, peace."
Click on the link below and listen as Sandy discusses this question: what is your voice telling you?
What is Your Voice Telling You? | Serenity - Master Grief Coach and Coaching Certification (sandywalden.com)
by Jan McDaniel
I am an uncertain gardener. Sometimes, my herbs or flowers grow beautifully and sometimes (I’m talking to you, vegetables) the yield is not one of plenty. But I have met some interesting gardeners over the years whose predictability is the kind that enables our species to survive.
Some of these were old-time warriors who kept meticulous records of the weather on each day from planting to harvest; some just sort of felt what to do and when to do it. I’ve decided both of these types of gardeners have a special talent that runs deep enough to pass down to upcoming generations without even trying.
My husband’s mother could make plants – even a banana tree – grow in an odd assortment that could be taken up in containers for the winter. Her life was not easy, but her children received the same gift and, thankfully, my children inherited my husband’s talent for nurturing all things. I love to see this reflected in them as surely as one season follows another.
It reminds me how we are all connected, from one generation to another, the way running vines in the garden send out new, little plants that continue the traditions of their parents. Each of us has a unique place – and purpose – in the garden. And the influence of each life goes on, beyond anything we could ever calculate.
Perhaps you are planning or planting a garden this year. I hope you do. Even something as small as one tomato plant can bring lovely nourishment to your healing and wonderful thoughts of your loved one.
May is Mental Health Month. Please remember those who suffer from mental health issues and those who continue to need hope and healing today. Find some way to share awareness and end stigma.
If you would like to participate in Annie Wilson's Healing Garden Project in honor of Mental Health Month, find the details on Instagram at #healinggardenproject.
by Jan McDaniel
With many people now able to travel after a long year of pandemic-related isolation, the adjustment may be unsettling. Businesses are reopening; jobs are being filled. Things are changing again. Whether you look forward to life returning to "normal" or resent the fact that your loss prevents you from getting back to the way things were, think about each step to make going back to the office or sending the kids back to in-person classes go as smoothly as possible.
Use a notebook and calendar to write down where you need to be at what time. Make lists for menus and grocery trips. Accept only those responsibilities you must or want to complete. Think about the needs of your family members. Budget your time as well as your money and energy.
The best plans may not always be enough. Unexpected stress often makes change necessary. Knowing this helps. Try self-talk to keep your mind focused on something that can help, a quote or song that keeps you motivated, a pep-talk, or the most important truth of all: you can do this.
Even survivors who have done a lot of healing and griefwork sometimes feel "thrown" back to earlier days. That is normal. Reach out for support when you need it. Make an appointment with a friend or your counselor. Talk to your doctor. Find a group whose members understand loss.
Put yourself on your "Care" list. Your needs are important. Get enough rest. Take time to eat, hydrate, and exercise. Spend a few minutes on a calming technique: listening to music, meditating, practicing yoga. The things that help you relax are also the things that provide the energy you will need for the days ahead.
Maybe you are uncertain about taking that trip or visiting relatives or friends. Pack your essential self-care tools (things that have worked for you in the past) and schedule time for yourself during your stay. Being prepared (cell phone charger, directions, tickets, snacks, water, medications, emergency numbers) really do make a difference in your ability to handle a return to things you did in the past.
Practice safety measures while you travel including wearing masks and social distancing where required. Try a solo adventure or bring a trusted friend along. With your escape plan (what you will do if you feel overwhelmed) in hand, you are ready.
A change of scenery can do you good.
by Sandy Walden
"I believe our purpose continues to evolve as we do." Visit Sandy's blog to explore your own purpose. Loss really makes us evaluate our lives, both before and after we lose a loved one. It makes us aware of what we need or want to do. And loss impacts those decisions.
Purpose – What is Your Purpose? | Serenity - Master Grief Coach and Coaching Certification (sandywalden.com)
Holidays bring memories from the past that remind survivors life has changed. Special days cannot be the same without those we long to see. Dealing with this during your grief is important. And while avoidance, is one way to handle holidays, it is almost impossible to avoid sights and sounds of the season. A better choice is to plan ways to face pain and deal with it.
One idea involves other people. If there are family members or friends you want to include in your plans or children you want to provide a somewhat normal holiday experience for, think about what would be comfortable for you. Perhaps you could hide Easter eggs for your grandchildren before Easter weekend. Or send greeting cards instead of hosting an extended family dinner.
Try something different from what you did before your loss. But it is also okay to find comfort in old traditions. Follow your heart, and you will find moments of peace. Whatever you decide, it is your decision. Others may mean well, but you are not obligated to do things that seem like too much. On the other hand, as time goes by, explore how you feel. You may change your mind and want to prepare food or enjoy a dinner hosted by a friend as you heal.
After each holiday, assess your reactions. You may need a day or two to rest, but take time at some point to write down how you handled the holiday, what you felt. and what you wish you had done differently. Use these notes the next time a holiday rolls around.
You can also include special ways to remember your loved one, either on your own or with others. A simple walk or candle lighting, a memorial project, or something else can help you honor the love you shared with that person. That love mattered, and it still exists.
by Sandy Walden
In this video, Sandy talks about the changes survivors go through after loss. Are we who we were before? If not, who are we? How do these changes happen?
Who am I Becoming? | Serenity - Master Grief Coach and Coaching Certification (sandywalden.com)
text and artwork by Ari
My boy will be gone from me seven years soon. Seven years without his laughter, his beautiful hazel eyes, his amazing hugs, his voice calling “mom!” Doesn't seem possible that I have continued in this world without him, yet I have, I am. Not gonna lie (one of his favorite sayings) it's been the hardest thing I've ever done... to live in a world devoid of his beautiful self, but each day that I wake up I can honestly say, now, that I am thankful to be alive.
At the end of this month I will take the day off from work, stay in bed and have a coffee with my hubby, then he will go watch tv while I journal for a couple of hours. I will write about my boy, remembering him in detail, the good and the bad.
I might cry, although tears are scarcer nowadays. After I will go and light a candle, which we keep burning all day, and I will take my daily walk. I will hope to see his spirit animal, a seagull, flying slowly over me, sometimes they call out their seagull calls, and I swear to me it sounds like “mom, mom!” each time! During these walks, when I see them, I feel peace, and I hope that that means he too is at peace. It's so important for me to hope that he has found it, as I am.
The difficult days... birthdays, day of passing, holidays, the last time you saw/ spoke to them, etc, etc, can be made a bit easier by actively looking for, and hopefully finding, that moment of peace. It may carry you forward into the next day, and that's all we need to do – get through each day as best as we can.
Today find your own peace!
by Sandy Walden
There were once two towns, remarkably close to one another and very similar in many ways.
Interesting enough both were called Town of Joy.
Within each of the towns were many homes and families, very different from one another, yet each was beautiful and perfect in their own imperfection.
Walking through the towns you might hear music, of all sorts.
You would hear friendly chatter, loving tones as well as the occasional squabble and even arguments here and there.
You might see thriving gardens, as well as those that had weeds but still yielded plenty for the families within these towns.
And then disaster hit.
Houses were demolished. Trees ripped out of the ground, reduced to branches and twigs.
All around was devastation and heartbreak of the sort that before could only have been imagined. The pain was palpable. Those who remained wrapped their arms around each other. Black clouds blocked the sun, and these same clouds broke open to release a cold, biting rain.
Time crawled on. The folks in the first town renamed their place, determined that from this point on they would be known as Everlasting Grief and Pain.
They gathered together with deep and sincere compassion. Each understood what the others were experiencing.
Together, they knew, absolutely knew, that the cold rain would go on forever.
Together they assembled shelters. They understood it was now their role in life to always feel the cold rain, so they made shelters with open roofs, and thin walls to let the rain in.
They knew their gardens would never be lush again, so they gathered bitter roots to eat. They reminded one another of the nourishing meals they used to share and were heartbroken to know that they would be hungry forever more.
It was not for them to have full bellies; it was their lot to have barely enough to sustain what they now considered life.
They understood this as their truth.
Then visitors arrived. They shared threadbare blankets with the townspeople, and told them that they understood. They too had experienced this natural disaster. They had learned that if they huddled together, they could find enough warmth to survive, but that they would never be truly warm again.
No, they could not rebuild strong structures for homes. That was gone.
No, they could not grow new crops to eat, they must learn to eat what they could forage.
Laughter and song were banished.
They learned to squelch any feeling of joy because they believed they no longer had a right to either.
Their children were taught that if sunshine ever broke through the clouds, they must turn away and return to the place under the dark clouds as that was to be their way forevermore.
They would never leave this town. That would not be possible.
This would be the place where they’d live out the remainder of their days.
The people of Everlasting Grief and Pain thought this was their only option.
Down the road a short way, lay the second town.
They too had been devastated.
The pain and heartbreak were like nothing they had ever experienced.
They too huddled together and cried tears of confusion, anguish, and deepest pain.
They shared what meager, bitter berries they could find as they worked individually as well as together to assemble crude shelters to protect them from the cold rain.
But over time the townsfolk began to discover new trees that offered fruit that was edible as well as quite delicious.
Others began exploring new possibilities for their shelters.
What would make the shelters more stable?
Were there any materials that would be easier to work with?
Was it okay to block some of that rain?
What might it be like to welcome some sunshine?
These shelters, always a work in progress, taught the townsfolk to appreciate what was working, to adopt new ideas, then use these ideas in new ways.
While crying, and offering words of comfort, even the occasional bit of laughter, the people gathered to wrap their arms around one another.
They were learning to stand upright again. Resting often as the need arose.
Visitors came to this town as well. They offered love, compassion, and support.
Then the visitors began to notice a new feeling of hope permeating the town.
They did what they could to reinforce that feeling. The visitors could see the people here growing in a new way.
The townsfolk worked alone and together, sometimes right alongside the visitors and came to appreciate the new crops that were harvested.
They sang their old songs in a new key and wrote new music that both honored the past and spoke of a future filled with great joy.
The townspeople knew they would always remember what they once had, they were determined to treasure and honor those memories.
They found ways to honor their past and cherish the love that was in their hearts.
This second town was also renamed.
They called their town Healing, a town of Hope.
As time moved forward, some people would make the decision to leave the first town and move to the second town.
It took courage and wasn’t easy, but the people of Healing reached out to the newcomers, speaking encouraging words to help them out.
The journey from the first town to the second sometimes took quite a while.
To build a new life in Healing required kindness, courage and patience.
But over time, new homes were built. New crops were planted. New stories were written and shared.
And healing happened.
Way for Hope
My name is Jan McDaniel. I speak grief. I also speak peace and healing. I started A Way for Hope blog and website to house projects I create that might help others who are grieving. The blog has expanded to include guest posts by my dear friends and fellow survivors who wanted to speak hope for others, too.
We understand how difficult losing someone you love is. We know how much it means to hear from others further along on this journey and how it is possible to live a life of happiness and joy even while still remembering and honoring those we love.
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Helping children grieve
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