The AfterLoss Blog

Coming Home to Peace and Comfort

Be Aware That Holidays Magnify EVERYTHING…

For some, the Holidays can be the most challenging time of the year.

So here’s a free ‘Holiday Self Care Guide’ with 5 practical tips to help you get through in one piece.Click Here to Get the Holiday Self-Care GuideScreen Shot 2014-12-16 at 1.20.38 PM

Feeling the loss of the ones you will always love is daily, but special days – such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays – can magnify all the emotions, the memories, the missing… and the love.

The sea change of every day can easily turn into a tsunami in the holidays because what perpetually lies beneath the surface has greater potential to rise beyond a normal moment into a torrent of feelings. This is normal. It is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

It is normal to feel the grief more intensely at such times, and to feel the need to take extra care of yourself when this happens.

Here are 5 of the most important things you can do to get through this time: Click Here to Get the Holiday Self-Care Guide

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Grief – The Borders of Life and Loss

Grief lies between the borders of yesterday and today. Loss lives in each moment, but no moment is an island. The life of yesterday shadows today in so many ways, in so many moments…in every way, Benjamin Hurt and Healin every moment. Moments are filled with what was, what is…and what will be.

It is in these moments of great loss that the upheavals of living in the foreign land of the Afterloss, we search books on grief and loss. We look for answers to unanswerable questions. Coping with loss confronts us with the perpetual interchange of love lived in two different worlds.

It is more than just coping with loss that brings equilibrium to the emptiness. There is something missing. More than just the physical presence of our loved one is gone. Dreams are gone. Hopes are gone. And in this moment, what is gone shapes what is left.

So, on the border of what was before and what is sits the world of the Afterloss. It is a world left to those left just out of reach of the Afterlife. It is a world of neither here nor there. It is a place of solitude and solace as well as the land of isolation and pain. It is where every emotion lives in the vacuous realms of love. It is the ultimate limbo state of numbness where everything hurts. It is the border of yesterday and today.

And in the unfolding of loss in this strange new land of the Afterloss life moves from coping with loss to living with loss. Inch by inch loss reshapes the heart that will always miss a beat, but nonetheless keeps beating.

The moment reshapes, too. Somewhere, somehow, when we lean into every moment it moves into the harmonic of what was taken and what was given, and what can be given. We reach out to others searching the realms of their own Afterloss. We share our sorrow and we become another solace. We continue to live in loss, but we go on. And we live in love in the unending borders of yesterday and today, of life and loss.

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Holidays and Loss

We are on the front end of the holiday trifecta. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years loom on the horizon. For most, it is a festive season. But for those living in loss it is often a difficult season of sorrow and endurance.

When Lydia and my first child, Bryan, died at 8 months old our oldest son, Matt, was 3 years of age.  We lived through the holidays as best we could. We honored Bryan by blending his presence into our holiday spirit while giving our child and each other the space to feel our loss. There were books for grieving parents that were helpful, but no matter how well written or insightful books for grieving the loss of a child can be, there was still the need to balance the joy and sorrow for Matt, and for us.

When Lydia died four years later, the holidays intensified Matt’s loss and my desire to hold the space of joy and sorrow for him. We lived with what we had in the shadow of the ones we could no longer hold. We missed Bryan. We missed Lydia.

Matt died three years later on November 10, 1992. I did not participate in Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. The holidays that the world around me celebrated went on without me.

Benjamin Collage

To this day, holidays magnify what I will always carry – the loss of the ones I will always love. But in that magnification is not just the loss of what I had, but also the deep gratitude of the lives I had to privilege to be given.

My relationship with the ones I will always love and lost did not end at their deaths. Our relationship continues to evolve in the expansion of our love. Life is different. Love is different. But time did not freeze. The river still flows and everywhere I go, they go.

I no longer brace myself for the holiday season. My leaning into everyday with whatever I feel has given me a way to lean into the holidays with the same openness. The best way to prepare for the next moment is to live fully in this one. And when I am open to love, love finds me… and I find love whatever day it may be.

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Will somebody just listen?

The way people deal with loss is so individualized. The way other people respond to those dealing with loss is just as unique. Some people can be there for others. Some can’t. read more…

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It’s hard to look forward when the past pulls me.

Anticipation is often colored by what went before, what went before death turned life around, before death turned the future into the past. read more…

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I never know. They never know.

I never know what is really going on inside someone else. And they will never know what is really going on within me. read more…

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Robin Williams’ death has brought back a time long ago when he called Matt several times during the last year of Matt’s life.

Robin was Matt’s favorite comedian and an organization that grants terminally ill children their wishes contacted Robin with Matt’s request to talk to him. Robin agreed with one stipulation. He asked that we not share his kind gesture. We were not close to Robin. And after the conversations and Matt’s death I had no other contact with him.  read more…

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Every anniversary of their deaths is different.

Every life and every death is different. I’m coming up to the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death, and the first anniversary of my brother’s. read more…

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How long does love last?

She left so much behind. She took so much with her. read more…

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The debilitation of physical pain carries many of the same reflections of grief’s pain.

I have discovered many similarities between physical pain and the pain of loss in these last few weeks. What I have found is I approach pain, no matter what the origin or manifestation, in many of the same ways with the same consequences. read more…

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It’s one thing to hurt. It’s another to self-destruct.

What is the difference between going through the pain of loss and creating pain in the midst of loss? read more…

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If there are shadows, there must be light somewhere.

I follow the shadows as much as I follow the light. For it is in the dark places where my light shines brightest. read more…

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Is it life that no longer fits, or is it me?

Is there a way to separate life from me? Loss from me? Me from me? read more…

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We meet again. And again. And again.

We meet in a song, in an old photograph, a video that moves over and over, again and again. I carry more than your picture. I carry your memory. I carry a moment long ago, just minutes away in this moment. read more…

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Recently someone asked for me to address the issue of anger in the grieving process.

I have written about it in the past, but mostly as it relates to other areas of how I needed to lean into the sorrow to find my way through the day, and into the night, to ready for another day. Also in the request was how children who lose a loved one deal with anger in living in loss. read more…

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The more I want to avoid the pain of loss, the greater the pain.

I will carry loss the rest of my life. The question is, “How do I choose to carry such loss, and such love, in such a life?” read more…

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“It’s just going to take time.”

I hated it when people would say that to me. What does that mean? Is that supposed to be of comfort? read more…

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It’s like going on autopilot.

Trauma strikes and the world I once knew catapults into the unknown and I just do what I have to do. I don’t know how it happens, but I go into remote control. My emotions are put to the side, numbed in their overwhelm. The mind submerges into an emergency state. And the body does what it has to do. It is heightened awareness, shattered consciousness and an unconscious doing. read more…

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Grief is not a paint by numbers process.

There is no norm just as there is no normal. Point A no longer goes to Point B. The only path I can go is mine. The pulse of an irregular beat of a broken heart guides the healing of my sorrow. Loss has no formulaic cure. Grief is not something to be cured. Grief is a sacred path unique to every heart that comes from the heart to the heart. read more…

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What makes me gravitate to places of where tears stream?

Why do I go into the epicenter of my hurt? What draws me to my sorrow? There was a song I wanted to play at Matt’s funeral. One afternoon, when I thought Matt was asleep, I was sitting on the floor in the living room listening to it. I was crying when Matt came walking through the room on his way to the kitchen. He steadied himself against the wall as he slowly made his way past me. read more…

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